This week:  Amaranth Borsuk & Brad Bouse, Between Page and Screen (2012) Kenneth Goldsmith, Soliloquy (2001)
Majorie Perloff, “Screening the Page/Paging the Screen” (2006)


noun.  sol⋅lil⋅o⋅quy

1: act of talking to oneself
2a poem, discourse, or utterance of a character in a drama that has the form of a monologue or gives the illusion of being a series of unspoken reflections
↑ as defined by the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.
I have had Goldsmith’s hallucinatory splendor, Soliloquy, on my mind since I first opened it last week.
The epigraph by Ludwig Wittgenstein has (coincidentally?) come up recently in a book that I am reading about Gravity’s Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon’s opus piece from 1973). The line, combined with a fraction of Gertrude Stein’s conversation with an anonymous reporter, presages his bizarre and oddly thoughtful work that comes from a project that dates back to 1995.

Originally produced as a 281-page book, every word Goldsmith spoke over the course of a week in the spring of ’95 became the source material for the poem. Unlike the definition above, Goldsmith chose to physically archive the spoken word, not the inner monologue. I see this choice inferring to the all-too-relate-able act anxious recall.

Reminiscence can be rose-coloured and thrilling, by reliving past I love you’s and sentimental encounters, but a recollection of words spoken at the wrong time and study of failed communication can be draining emotionally and in Goldsmith’s investigation — physically draining (the transcription took 8 weeks of 8 hour days to complete). Our social selves are bound to our relationship with memory and it’s indefinite condition. The interaction between our present and past selves are what establishes our future action and build systems for self-analysis. This extreme account of recollection, in print and in digital forms, is a blaring example of the extreme extents that individuals go to to establish a concrete sense of their actions: diary keeping, anxious night’s awake thinking about the day’s interactions and long phone calls with partners to interpret and reinterpret actions that have already taken place. 

In the digital word, the soliloquy is veiled by why empty screen, until the viewer clicks to reveal individual lines at a time. This format infers the endless possibility for outcomes or actions, that can reveal themselves in every interaction but are not made real until the actor acts upon the world.

In her novel, Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art, Virginia Heffernan recalls the Internet’s transition from “parataxis— weak connectives, like all black space, which allowed the imagination to liberally supply and tease out meaning” to the present hypotaxis—”in which hierarchies of meaning and interpretive connections are tightly made for a user, the visual field is entirely programmed, and, at worst, the imagination is shut out.” This design shift in the 1990’s is cognitively affective—establishing a new environment for navigating and familiarizing users with the digital world.

The tight white digital canvas that Heffernan describes as an interface that “seems to lock you out of the friendly graphical façade” replaced the black “nothingness” of the phosphor Zenith terminal screens. She compares the dark interface to an “existential Old Testament… which left you to wonder who or what was out there.”  Contemporary Internet users are familiar with the stark white screen with the digital, but is it just a strict mode of design that limits creativity and differential claims of interpretation? Did Goldsmith utilizes the white canvas to “lock out” the mind and restrict associations ?

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