If there’s one good thing about the 2020 presidential election—other than, of course, the glimmer of hope that Donald Trump may soon no longer be president—it’s that we’ve entered a new era in which Trump is no longer constantly raising the topic of Hillary Clinton‘s emails. And yet, suddenly, Clinton’s correspondences are back in the news. This time, though, it isn’t Trump we have to thank for that, but the controversial artist and poet Kenneth Goldsmith.
Back in March, Goldsmith announced that he would be participating in this year’s Venice Biennale, and that his contribution would be what he very generously described as “the greatest poem of the 21st century”—meaning all 30,000 of the emails Clinton sent from the “clintonemail.com” domain between 2009 and 2013. And, sure enough, that’s exactly what could be found inside Goldsmith’s exhibition when it opened in May, under the title “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails.” (Here might be a good time to mention that Goldsmith is best known for inventing the concept of so-called “uncreative writing.”)
So, has anyone cared to actually sift through any of the 62,000 pages that Goldsmith sent to print? That remained unclear until this week, when none other than Hillary Clinton herself, who was already in the country to attend an economic forum, dropped by the Cinema Teatro Italia to do a bit of light reading. But as the former secretary of state worked her way through the wealth of material, she didn’t keep it to herself; instead, she spent a full hour of her surprise visit reading aloud excerpts from her seat at a replica of the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk. “I think the scene was so extraordinary that many customers believed that she was just a lookalike at first,” the show’s curator, Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, told the Huffington Post.
Clinton may have fully embraced the role of performance artist, but it doesn’t exactly sound like she did so with relish. “They are just so boring,” she eventually said of the emails, according to Goldsmith. At least her performance was well reviewed; on Twitter, the art critic Jerry Saltz declared that it was “epic.”
No matter who you agree with, there’s no denying that “boring” is an improvement for Goldsmith. Then again, the bar is about as low as it can get. Here’s hoping that Goldsmith never again pulls a stunt so severe to reach the level of criticism he faced for that infamous time in 2015 when he attempted to do a poetry reading, which was actually a reading of a crudely reordered version of Michael Brown’s autopsy.