Jordan Mowat Presents
“SOLILOQUY” IN REVIEW
Kenneth Goldmith’s “Soliloquy” is spoken word in the extreme sense: a transcription of every word he spoke over the course of a week in 1996. The text includes all of the unedited flaws and falters inherent in the spontaneous production of speech, which proves to be no less informative than refined disclosure. Autobiographers usually enjoy the luxury of longwinded self-justification and selective recount, but Goldsmith takes a bolder tack by neglecting both.
The piece is viewable by days of the week, each of which is distributed into 10 separate sections. Left undisturbed, these sections are wordlessly white excepting the first phrase, but poking through the emptiness with the cursor highlights more snippets. Goldsmith avoids daunting the reader by allowing him to reveal only one phrase at a time, which is good, because the sheer volume of words is dizzying. This elegant interface also visually reproduces the flow of speech, drawing attention to the smaller phrases that might otherwise be overlooked. Tiny, pale grey text over white is not easy on the eyes, but aside from that, “Soliloquy”’s minimalist form fully suits the content.
Even with all the noise of repeated confirmations and meaningless fragments, Goldsmith’s daily chatter paints an engaging + colourful self-portrait. Endearing neuroticism expresses itself through long strings of repetition (“But you can you can hit you can hit in Word you can hit your command key and and you can then the things get underlined, you know, like like little I love that it’s very yeah like no I love which I really like, you know, you can hit an e and”) but these are never far from an artful insight or a funny quip (“I did everything with Quick Keys, man, it was bitchin’”). As a cool medium, “Soliloquy” demands active reading for the reader to contextualize each phrase. The gaps between ‘scenes’ are not defined, and only one side of each conversation is visible. Thankfully, though, the piece proves that even one person’s unadulterated, everyday speech is intensely informative. Goldsmith appropriates certain vocabularies and speech patterns to different situations: he croons to his beloved dog in long, puppy-talk tangents; when making plans he tends to obsess, asking many questions in succession; his social talk is enriched with stories of travel and beauty. Through these attitudes the reader can appropriate where Goldsmith is and to whom he is talking. When aggregated, this speech chronicles the progression of the week. Plans are made, and later seen coming to fruition. Eyes are even turned toward the reader, in a sense, when the production of the piece itself emerges as a part of Goldsmith’s reality.
A saying goes omnis mundi creatura quasi liber et scriptura (“Every worldly phenomena is a text”). In “Soliloquy,” Kenneth Goldsmith demonstrates that human experience is significantly, if not entirely, mediated by words. From the vocalizations of a single speaker, the reader can infer moods, relationships, uncertainty, sex, supper, time of day, and so much more than the speech-act itself.