What rhymes with Kardashian?
From The New Yorker:
Over the past few years, the art world has been throwing around the term “post-Internet” to describe the practices of artists who use the Web as the basis for their work but don’t make a big deal about it. For these artists, unlike those of previous generations, the Web is just another medium, like painting or sculpture. Their artworks move fluidly between spaces, appearing sometimes on a screen, other times in a gallery. A JPEG of a painting is often considered another version of a painting, and vice versa.
We’re beginning to see a similar turn in poetry. Earlier Web-based poetries tended to either exploit the technical side of the Web or underscore the weirdness of it. E-poetry animated words and letters in browser windows. Conceptual poetry made dry, programmatic works that mimicked the structures of the Web. Flarf harvested strange language from Google searches and then presented it newly as kitschy objet trouvé. Alt Lit aped the goopy sincerity of social media, recasting it in poems. These movements produced very different types of poetry, but they shared the idea that the Web was a distinct rupture in the way that poetry was made: after the Web, we would never write the same way again.
But a book like Zultanski’s “Bribery” uses the Web while downplaying or taking for granted its influence. At first glance, you might mistake it for pre-Internet poetry. And the same is true of a new book by Sam Riviere, “Kim Kardashian’s Marriage.” Like Zultanski, Riviere was born in 1981, and like Zultanski, Riviere seems to view the Internet with a shrug, as if to say, “Doesn’t everybody make poetry from the Web? So what?”
The title of Riviere’s book is misleading: the text inside was not, as you might have guessed, scraped from Kim Kardashian’s social-media presence or from gossip sites; in fact, it has nothing to do with her or her wedding at all, really. Instead, Riviere used the duration of Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries—seventy-two days—as a constraint to determine how many poems the book would contain. And the whole book is similarly deceptive: what appears to be a series of semi-confessional lyric poems are all mathematically based on Web searches. Through an elaborate process of cannibalizing and recombining chapter headings from his previous books, Riviere has come up with a series of keywords upon which his Web searches are based. After throwing them into Google, he accepts the first ten results from each search and then crafts them into stanzas. His book is entirely unoriginal: not a single word of his own is added.
Yet the range of what Riviere has mined is vast.