Charity Coleman: Why is everything in my life low tech? Have you been writing at all?
Ariel Goldberg: I’ve been writing these one-sentence observations.
CC: Do you consider yourself a writer?
AG: I do. I consider myself an artist who writes. Does that make sense?
CC: It makes a lot of sense actually.
AG: I’ve been writing sentences.
CC: Ooh we gotta talk about sentences.
AG: I know. They’re really fascinating.
CC: I’ve been having a relationship with sentences. It’s kind of an antagonistic relationship. I don’t really understand the sentence or what the sentence wants me to do, but I tend to rearrange the words multiple times until the sentence becomes what I want it to be and even then it is unstable and then I need to engage the unstable sentence.
AG: Right, the agrammatical sentence.
CC: Yeah, inside an unstable paragraph.
AG: I’ve been writing this logbook like one sentence observations about my encounters with photography. It’s the longest list poem ever. It’s getting weirder the more I do it. I put photography magnets on my hands; it’s inexhaustible, my subject matter. People are using cameras everywhere.
CC: I was just talking to someone about how people are saying photographers are having a crisis where they feel their art has become inconsequential or defunct. It’s so ridiculous— photography is not “dead”.
AG: It’s just democratized, which makes it a lot more interesting. I want to move from sentences to letters, where someone writes to this person about photographs they’ve seen or seen taken or taken. So I’ve expanding this to be more cohesive than a list.
CC: Can I take your picture? Don’t pose. Uh-oh. I think my camera’s dead. This thing isn’t opening. It’s kind of messed up.
AG: I did this horrible smile in that photo-shoot of us.
CC: Can you keep still for one second? Low light situation.
AG: Oh no I don’t like my hair like this. It’s poofy on the sides. Now can I take a picture of you? What’s in the news?
CC: A heat wave in Moscow good lord. I never think about things like that.
AG: Take another one. I fixed my hair. We’re so vain.
CC: A ship unearthed at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan was a ship that carried sugar and molasses to Barbados. It’s a sugar ship. I need to write about the sugar ship.
AG: I see kids so into sugar. These students of mine, all they talked about was Coca-Cola. One day a vending machine was getting delivered and they walked towards it like zombies. I would give them sugar, bribe and them and then they would be crazy. And I’d be like damn it why did I give them sugar. Hey—I have a question. When does performance become theater, do you think it is more time-based or does the type of script determine the shift?
CC: And if there is no script?
AG: Once there is a script it looks different, content-based; so how would a piece start transforming into performance if it’s in a theater with a non-participatory audience? I’m thinking of Dynasty Handbag’s one-woman show I saw at Dixon Place.
CC: And then you have artists like Ann Liv Young kind of forcing people to participate. The division between performance and theater is not as pronounced as you’re suggesting in terms of semantics or connotations. It’s just about different spaces. Scripts? People script all sorts of things. Choreographers script dance moves. I gotta read about that sugar ship.
AG: This article is all about how no one knows the details of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. Who cares what they’re having for an appetizer? 90,00 pages of documents about the war in Afghanistan were on Wikileaks. That’s a conceptual poetry piece right there.
CC: Look, the Chelsea article says “Where’s Wikileaks when you need it?”
AG: They read my mind.
CC: They’re saying something different. Where’s the sugar ship?
AG: Look what’s on the TV–I don’t understand why they split up the screen in four different parts. The
ticker, the main person, the icons, the weather thing. People don’t get over-involved in the sharing of information. You can streamline that.
CC: I only like watching soccer when they score a lot of goals.
AG: Sometimes the game ends zero-zero.
CC: I know, that’s boring.
AG: I went to the Popsicle Festival which was all these Brooklyn reading series, Crowd, Space Space, Stain of Poetry. Gina Abelkop read from San Francisco. She does some pop star discussion inspired poetry. She went up the front of everyone, and it was a hot marathon type reading and just screams and she did it again later in the reading.
CC: It’s kind of riot grrrl.
AG: I bought Dorothea Lasky’s pamphlet Poetry is not a Project from Ugly Duckling Presse there. The word “projects” is getting bashed. She uses the argument poets want to be artists because supposedly they want to have a definitive way to package what they’re doing. But actually, “project” can contain uncertainty and “project” is just a word that fails our descriptive powers. And why is art pitted against poetry in terms of glamour? I don’t know any artists really making money as artists. Show me the glamour! Lasky seemed to be using that chatty-girl-criticism voice that Stephanie Young uses, but without enough evidence.
CC: It is making an argument against conceptualism(s) but in a really vague manner. I didn’t understand the relevance, if any, of the illustrations to the text. It looked like a gardening diary for grannies or something, and it made me feel gloomy about these pseudo-debates or controversies.
AG: Why is she drawing lines around poetry and visual art?
CC: I think it’s a pretty common perspective to take, usually stemming from the misconception that poetry is somehow a lesser form. The lines also mythologize visual art in a way that ensures that writers remain alienated from visual art and its constructs. We need to shake this whole “why I am not a painter” conundrum. Forge ahead, people!
AG: Maybe that poetry is not a lesser form but that it’s invisible. Visual artists use tangible materials. Words slip away or take time. They aren’t as approachable. So what, poets’ processes also should be invisible? Why can’t their (increasingly conceptual) processes also be the art? There was something else that happened at the Popsicle Festival.
CC: Was it a project?
AG: One of the organizers went up to the lectern and holds up her Blackberry or i-phone and reads from it and I thought it was a performance piece, a commentary on incessant contact with the device, but it wasn’t. She had the introduction up in some document on her phone.
CC: Maybe she was Google-mapping her poetics.
AG: It made me uncomfortable like the online poetry magazine that puts a profile picture next to the poem. This author photo has gone too far.
CC: Subject / object.
AG: I need to wash my clothes. This laundromat has TVs. Let’s go here.
CC: I want to get some toys from the machine.
AG: There was this stuff inside the washing the machine, I thought it was lint. I picked it up and it was a clump of shit. I don’t want the shit washer.
CC: Are your clothes in the shit?
AG: No, rescued them. I have detergent on my fingers disinfecting it. I need soap. Do you smell it on me? Can you do a smell check?
CC: You smell fine.
AG: This TV is too modern. That TV is hiding and two are hiding in a nook. Why is the TV on low if there are subtitles?
CC: Maybe someone is hearing impaired.
AG: It’s too low to hear, turn it off entirely. What is HD?
CC: Hilda Doolittle.
AG: Are you friends with her?
CC: No, I’m not friends with HD. Why would you show someone drinking water in a commercial? Can you smoke in here?
AG: Where do you think we are? Can you smoke in here. There’s bras on the floor, that’s as wild as it gets. Closed captioning, they just showed musical notes.
CC: What else are they supposed to do.
AG: I feel like everything looks like it’s an advertisement for a store.
CC: I wish there was an advertisement that wasn’t advertisement for anything, like a picture of someone folding a handkerchief and that’s it and then it ends.
AG: What’s happening on the TV now?
CC: Some guy is falling from a World Trade Center tower.
AG: Do you remember when that performance artist did a reenactment of jumping from the WTC in a building in Chicago? It was on the front page of the Daily News.
CC: No, I don’t know about that.
AG: And these family members of the people who died got really offended.
CC: They always do. Remember that sculpture of the person who had fallen to the ground?
AG: No, I didn’t see that.
CC: It was called The Jumper and a figure was like, lying curled up on the ground or something. People were very upset. Maybe I’m making it up, I don’t know.
AG: I can’t pay attention to what you’re saying because the TV is on.
CC: That’s fine.
AG: It’s silencing. I feel like you can get sucked into TV and then you don’t care what’s on it. You can just watch it, not paying attention.
CC: I get really distracted. I’m thinking about a million other things while I’m staring at a TV, like I don’t know who’s good or bad or who should die or who dies or whatever, or why stuff is even happening.
AG: This is why we are doing TV—I mean we are on our own ideas of TV. Clearly we’re not on TV right now. But we don’t own actual TVs, so, do you get my logic?
CC: I’m speechless.