22 x 30 inch / 56 x 76.2 cm
Archival inkjet on rag paper
Signed, numbered, dated on back
My entire poetic production is founded upon Wittgenstein’s later writings. Although it has sat on my shelf for decades, I never actually read the Tractatus. But I always loved the idea of it; I am a conceptual writer, after all.
–– Kenneth Goldsmith
I Declare a Permanent State of Happiness is a remarkable visual engagement with one of the most important philosophical works of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Written as a series of numbered propositions, Wittgenstein’s treatise is an ambitious attempt to elucidate the relationship of language to logic and to reality.
Goldsmith’s response to the text is a testament to the highly distinctive artistic vision that characterizes all of his work. Inspired by the Tractatus but also boldly inventive, Goldsmith’s prints reveal the breadth and depth not just of Wittgenstein’s genius, but also of the intervening artist’s creative fervor.
Collages, drawings, sketches, handwritten comments, blacked-out and blanched text, shopping receipts and scans-within-scans: these are some of the techniques that appear in this body of work, which was first presented at the Opening Gallery in New York in March 2023.
In 2017, I received an unusual request from a small British press. I was sent a list of literary titles and asked to select one. I chose Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus. A set of proofs was sent to me, along with a few felt-tip pens. My job was to read the Tractatus and annotate the book in the margins with the pens. The book was to then be published with the annotations.
I set to work, reading closely what was perhaps the most difficult book I've ever encountered. But instead of literary annotations, I found myself sketching in the margins. The more I read, the more I drew; I ended up spending a year on a project that was supposed to take a month.
After the book was published, I'd always wanted to realize the plates on a much larger and more refined scale, the results of which are on display here. While at first glance, the images on these walls might seem to be mere reproductions of the book, on closer examination one will find that each drawing is a reinterpretation and reinvestigation of approximately half the pages in the book.
This exhibition is based on two touchstones: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Guy Debord. Because Wittgenstein's logical process escaped me, I discovered that the best way for me to engage with this difficult text was through the anti-logic of Situationism. Somehow Wittgenstein's text was porous enough to accept a psychogeographic treatment, hence the mash-up of philosophy and May '68 slogans.
This series features a limited edition of prints, produced by ERIS and numbered and signed by the artist. The works present in a dedicated folio.
** When placing a print order, please indicate the title of the work you wish to receive. Please bear in mind that while we do not charge for standard shipping, expedited, signed-for, and insured services will be charged extra.
Kenneth Goldsmith lives and works in New York City. He teaches writing at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1996, he founded UbuWeb (http://ubu.com), the largest site for the free distribution of avant-garde materials, and in 2013 he was named as the inaugural Poet Laureate of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In addition to I Declare a Permanent State of Happiness, his books include Wasting Time on the Internet and Duchamp Is My Lawyer: The Polemics, Pragmatics, and Poetics of UbuWeb, the latter of which was awarded the 2020 Prix François Morellet.
Goldsmith’s recent artistic works are among the most powerful and provocative to have appeared in the last few years. HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails was displayed in conjunction with the Venice Biennale at the Despar Teatro Italia in 2019. It turned the seemingly banal act of printing out the former presidential candidate’s leaked emails into a widely discussed installation that was as notable for its conceptual brilliance as for its underlying political statement. Goldsmith’s ongoing project Retyping a Library was displayed at the Lofoten International Art Festival in 2022.
The complete body of work appears in a special edition book by ERIS.