Thursday, September 19, 2013

Excerpt from TOWARD A POETICS OF HYPERREALISM by Kenneth Goldsmith


The rise of identity politics of the past have given voice to many that have been denied.  And there is still so much work to be done: many voices are still marginalized and ignored.  Every effort must be made to ensure that those who have something to say have a place to say it and an audience to hear it.  The importance of this work cannot be underestimated.

Still, identity is a slippery issue, and no single approach can nail it.  For instance, I don't think that there's a stable or essential "me."  I am an amalgamation of many things: books I've read, movies I've seen, television shows I've watched, conversations I've had, songs I've sung, lovers I've loved.  In fact, I'm a creation of so many people and so many ideas, to the point where I feel I've actually had few original thoughts and ideas; to think that what I consider to be "mine" was "original" would be blindingly egotistical.  Sometimes, I'll think I've had an original thought or feeling and then, at 2 A.M., while watching an old movie on TV that I hadn't seen in many years, the protagonist will spout something that I had previously claimed as my own.  In other words, I took his words (which, of course, weren't really "his words" at all), internalized them, and made them my own.  This happens all the time.

Often - mostly unconsciously - I'll model my identity of myself on some image that I've been pitched to by an advertisement.  When I'm trying on clothes in a store, I will bring forth that image that I've seen in an ad and mentally insert myself and my image into it.  It's all fantasy.  I would say that an enormous part of my identity has been adopted from advertising.  I very much live in this culture; how could I possibly ignore such powerful forces?  Is it ideal?  Probably not.  Would I like not to be so swayed by the forces of advertising and consumerism?  Of course, but I would be kidding myself if I didn't admit that this was a huge part of who I am as a member of this culture.

Transgendered persons are trying to become the people who they are, not the ones they were born as.  Transsexual persons too are in a constant state of remaking themselves, laboring courageously their whole lives to adopt new and fluid identities.  I feel inspired by such fluid and changeable notions of identity.

On the Internet, these tendencies move in different directions, with identity running the gamut from authenticity to total fabrication.  With much less commitment than it takes in meatspace, we project various personae with mere stokes of a keyboard.  Online, I tend to morph in different directions: in this chat room I'm a woman; on this blog I'm a political conservative; in this forum I'm a middle-aged golfer.  And I never get called out for not being authentic or real.  On the contrary, I am addressed as "madam" or "you right-wing asshole."  As such, I've come to expect that the person I think I'm addressing on the Internet isn't really "that person."

If my identity is really up for grabs and changeable by the minute - as I believe it is - it's important that my writing reflect this state of ever-shifting identity and subjectivity.  That can mean adopting voices that aren't "mine," subjectivities that aren't "mine," political positions that aren't "mine," opinions that aren't "mine," words that aren't "mine" because, in the end, I don't think that I can possibly define what's mine and what isn't.



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