Pharmaceutical Cubes by Kenneth Goldsmith
Pharmaceutical Cubes PDF 1.2Mb
About : While watching the 6:00 nightly news on one of the major U.S. television networks recently, I was struck by the amount of ads placed there by the pharmaceutical industry. From bladder control to mood-enhancement, an elderly viewership is clearly receptive to these types of products. But what struck me more than the frequency with which these ads ran was the fact that half of the, say, two-minute ad was given up to a double-speed announcer warning of the drug’s side-effects. For a full minute, what sounded to my ears like a new type of sound poem emerged: a litany of complaints and horrors that arise from steady use of these “wonder” drugs. The text was spoken so fast that I could barely understand what was being uttered.
Curious to know more, I went on the drug’s websites and found more than I ever could imagine. Zoloft, for example, provides a 43-page information PDF beginning with a chilling opening paragraph entitled “Suicidality in Children and Adolescents.” The first sentence reads, “Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in short-term studies in children and adolescents with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.” It’s a numbing document for reasons both having to do with the terrifying content as well as the sheer amount of it: Zoloft is nearly 7,000 words long.
I have often talked about how today in writing, quantity has trumped quality; it is the writer’s job to manage the amount of available language. In sculpting these documents, I found my perfect material. Squeezed into 1-point type, then justified, I created columns of unreadable texts: words as texture. When folded into cubes, these warnings – secretly embedded into the pills we take – are reconstituted into three-dimensional forms, creating a new type of placebo. If language, as William S. Burroughs claims, is a virus from outer space, then this panacea for our psychotropic ills – delivered in linguistic torrents – proves Burroughs right by having opposite effect of virally compounding our diseases rather than curing them.
Published October 2008 in the Diffusion Transformations Series
Kenneth Goldsmith‘s writing has been called “some of the most exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry” by Publishers Weekly. Goldsmith is the author of ten books of poetry, founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb, and the editor of I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, which was the basis for an opera, “Trans-Warhol,” that premiered in Geneva in March of 2007. An hour-long documentary on his work, “sucking on words: Kenneth Goldsmith” premiered at the British Library in 2007. Kenneth Goldsmith is the host of a weekly radio show on New York City’s WFMU. He teaches writing at The University of Pennsylvania, where he is a senior editor of PennSound, an online poetry archive.
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