Vincenzo Santarcangelo: You studied sculpture at college. It seems, however, that you have no interest in shaping language: “We don’t need the new sentence, the old sentence re-framed is good enough” is one of your mottos. Do you think any trace of those years of apprenticeship has remained in your work, in some way?
Kenneth Goldsmith: When we shift linguistic contexts from one place to another, we shape them, hence Marcel Duchamp’s reassignment of found objects; if Duchamp could do that with sculpture and John Cage could do that with sound, then I thought that I could do it with language. While we tend to emphasize the semantic qualities of language, certain strains of modernism taught us to value their formal qualities as well, the audio and visual aspects of language. In the digital age, language can literally be picked up and moved via cut-and-paste, making it extremely physical. It can also be displaced à la Duchamp (think of how you share, say, an Instagram photo, providing recontextualization each time it is viewed); in this way, we can say that the entire Internet is one big Duchampian readymade.