Francesco Urbano Ragazzi

LIAF 2022, Chapter II:
Retyping a Library

Kenneth Goldsmith

Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (NO)
June 9 - Aug. 7, 2022

Lofoten International Art Festival preview project in Oslo
curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi and Anne Hilde Neset

Retyping a Library. LIAF at Kunstnernes Hus

Lofoten International Art Festival and Kunstnernes Hus are delighted to announce Retyping a Library, a solo exhibition by Kenneth Goldsmith (New York 1961) opening on 9 June 2022 at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo. Curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, artistic director of LIAF2022, and Anne Hilde Neset, director of Kunstnernes Hus, the exhibition presents a new commission by the American artist and writer.

After Something Out of It, a programme of two solo exhibitions by Pauline Curnier Jardin and Tomaso De Luca that opened in conjunction with the Biennale Arte 2022 in Venice, Kenneth Goldsmith’s Retyping a Library is the second and last exhibition project to preview the themes of the next edition of the Lofoten International Art Festival, which will open in Kabelvåg on 3 September 2022.
The title of LIAF2022 and the names of the invited artists will be revealed at the opening of Kenneth Goldsmith’s exhibition in Oslo.

Retyping a Library is a monumental new intervention by Kenneth Goldsmith for the gallery on the ground floor of Kunstnernes Hus. At the center of the exhibition space, more than two hundred boxes are arranged to form a cube that resembles a minimalist sculpture. Inside each box there is a manuscript on onionskin paper that bears witness to the titanic task the artist has set himself: to copy all the volumes in his library with a typewriter.

Retyping a Library could either be a stoical exercise in attention or a well-conceived scam. It is certainly a celebration of literature and the daily work it takes to produce it. This is how the artist describes the birth of the artwork: «In 2002, I began retyping my library. It was during the heyday of file-sharing and copying was everything. It seemed to me that things only had value if they existed in multiples; politically and socially I felt that if everyone couldn’t have something, then it had no value. So in 2002, I sat down and retyped Moby Dick. Cut to lockdown. I often found myself sitting alone in the studio. And at those moments, my mind began to drift back to 2002; what if the retyping my library project had gone in another direction? What if I started it up again, letting it evolve into a hybrid project, one in which literature fused with visual art?»

Retyping a Library ties in with the practice of uncreative writing that Goldsmith theorized and implemented through radical copy-paste in projects such as Day, Printing Out the Internet, and The Hillary Clinton Emails. At Kunstnernes Hus, however, there is something more. As can be seen in the display cases scattered throughout the exhibition space, each copied book is associated with a portrait of its author drawn by Goldsmith himself. The potentially infinite replicability of the copy thus enters into dialogue with an artefact of absolute singularity, highlighting the hand behind the activity of appropriation and rewriting. The same dialectic is exhibited on the walls of the gallery, where more than two hundred signatures of the authors cited by Goldsmith are printed on paper to form a grid stretching from the floor to the ceiling. If the artist’s operation looks like that of a forger or a copyist, the size of the prints makes it possible to capture the unrepeatable gestures of each writer included in this special cabinet de dessins.

Retyping a Library is the gathering of an ideal community. The names included in this collection were chosen according to a principle that Goldsmith describes in this way: «I ran into a problem. My library was comprised of the limits of my taste. And if there’s anything these past few years have shown me, it’s how small the limits of my world are. So I decided that in order to reflect this, I would change the parameters from retyping my library to retyping a library. What if this library was the platonic ideal of a library, a library built on some type of objective rationalism rather than on my own subjective tastes? And beyond that, what might I learn from it in its new form?» The library imagined by Goldsmith thus ranges from Theodor Adorno to Unica Zürn, via Lydia Cabrera, Hélène Cixous, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Léopold Sėdar Senghor, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. These and many others.

Retyping a Library anticipates some of the themes shaping the next edition of the Lofoten International Art Festival. The duo Francesco Urbano Ragazzi explains: «Kenneth’s work hides some references that have inspired our edition of LIAF: from Shelley to Nakamura. It is made of an authorship that is multiple and singular, it deals with isolation and community, digital scarcity and democracy, it pushes us to think not so much about the possibilities of artificial intelligence as about the automation already in place of the human mind.»