Week 169_HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails

HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails

By Kenneth Goldsmith

Curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi 

May 9–November 24, 2019 

Despar Teatro Italia

Campiello de l'Anconeta 1944, 30121 Venezia



Despar Teatro Italia opens the door to HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails, a solo exhibition by the artist and poet Kenneth Goldsmith organized by the curatorial team Francesco Urbano Ragazzi.

The project will be inaugurated on 9th May 2019 in conjunction with the 58th Biennale of Visual Arts in Venice thanks to the combined commitment of The Internet Saga and Zuecca Projects, with the collaboration of Circuitozero, The Bauers, NERO and with the support of Despar Aspiag Service. 

The exhibition will be held in the Cinema Teatro Italia which, at the beginning of the last century, was the second and largest cinema on the island. Following a meticulous restoration of its frescoes and a careful structural renovation, the building was converted into a supermarket by Despar in 2016. In this spectacular environment with its stratified history, Kenneth Goldsmith reflects on the intermingling between the private and public spaces in the age of mass digitalization. His starting point is the case which, exactly ten years ago, changed irrevocably the notions of privacy and transparency, propaganda and democracy in Western politics.


It was in 2009 when the first doubts arose regarding a private server that Hillary Clinton was using for sending e-mails during her term as Secretary of State. Although the American senator has never been incriminated or convicted for any crime, the episode certainly contributed to her defeat - and the consequent victory of Donald Trump – during the Presidential Elections in 2016.

Using the techniques of appropriation and collage theorized in his book Uncreative Writing, Kenneth Goldsmith makes public for the first time in printed format all the e-mails which, according to WikiLeaks, were sent from the domain clintonemail.com between 2009 and 2013. The almost 60,000 pages of documentation are printed in double copy and are on display in the gallery and in the lobby on the second floor of Despar Teatro Italia. These documents are exhibited inside an environmental installation which converts in a lo-fi format some of the furnishings of the Oval Office in the White House. The pile of papers is rather unimpressive, rebutting Trump’s efforts to make them monumental. In this way, Goldsmith creates an anti-monument to the folly of Trump’s heinous smear campaign against Clinton.

In an ambient somewhere between a library, a theatre stage and an embassy, the language of digital bureaucracy is transformed by Goldsmith into a work of literature. Regarding this the author claims: «These are the most important political documents of our times. They have been discussed at every level of public opinion but almost no-one has read them. Hidden in full view, all the e-mails were available online but nevertheless they have become a sort of ghost. HILLARY is their first public appearance.»


The Hillary Clinton Emails are part of an ongoing series investigating the physical manifestation of the document in the digital age. Previous incarnations of the series include Printing out the Internet (LABOR, Mexico City, 2013) and Printing out JSTOR: A Tribute to Aaron Swartz (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and Kunstverein Hamburg, 2014).

HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails also has the aim of recreating the original function of the Despar Teatro Italia. The big cinema screen which today is above the gastronomic counter of the supermarket, will be used to project videos and films. The programming of this temporary cinema will include a selection of works from UbuWeb, a portal which Kenneth Goldsmith founded in 1996 to diffuse avant-garde films and poems online. Among the largest of this type, the archive makes copies of thousands of rare works available for everyone, representing an essential meeting point between analogical and digital culture. The projection of UbuWeb on the big screen has the aim of showing how audio-visual formats are translated and diffused on the Internet. In the programmes - which will be transmitted every day from 6 to 7pm and which will be changed weekly - there will be, among others, works by Peggy Ahwesh, Sophia Al-Maria, Johanna Bruckner, Alex Da Corte, Cheryl Donegan, Shadi Habib Allah, Bek Hyunjin, Lev Manovich, Alix Pearlstein, People Like Us, Christine Rebet, Sabrina Röthlisberger, Sara Sackner, Leah Singer, Stan VanDerBeek, Jennifer West, Jordan Wolfson.



Kenneth Goldsmith is the author of thirteen books of poetry and the founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb (ubu.com). The artist teaches writing at The University of Pennsylvania, where he is a senior editor of PennSound. He held The Anschutz Distinguished Fellow Professorship in American Studies at Princeton University for 2009-10 and received the Qwartz Electronic Music Award in Paris in 2009. In May 2011, Goldsmith was invited to read at President Obama's A Celebration of American Poetry at The White House, where he also held a poetry workshop with First Lady Michelle Obama. He co-edited Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing and published two books of essays, Wasting Time on the Internet (2016) and Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, which won the 2011 Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present Book Award. Goldsmith participated in dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Germany (2012) with his Letter To Bettina Funcke as part of their 100 Notes - 100 Thoughts book series. In 2013, he was named as the inaugural Poet Laureate of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. His most recent book is I Declare a Permanent State of Happiness.

Kenneth Goldsmith. Portrait © Jerónimo Álvarez.

Kenneth Goldsmith. Portrait © Jerónimo Álvarez.



Franceso Urbano Ragazzi is a curatorial duo trained in ontology and media studies whose main interest resides in investigating the narratives that inform the age of connectivity. In 2015 the team curated The Internet Saga, a solo show by avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas presnented in Venice during the Biennale of Visual Arts. The exhibition then evolved in a research platform that over the years has developed commissions for public and private institutions in Europe. Francesco Urbano Ragazzi also curated exhibitions and research programs for, among others, MMCA- Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea (Seoul); Missoni; International Studio and Curatorial Program (New York); CRRI- Castello di Rivoli (Turin); Centre d’Art Contemporain (Genève); Ruya Foundation (Baghdad), Emirates Foundation (Abu Dhabi), Futura – Centre for contemporary art (Prague), Italian Ministry of Culture, Italian Ministry of Equal Opportunities (Rome), Swiss Institute (Rome/Milan). Since 2017 Francesco Urbano Ragazzi is the director of the Chiara Fumai archive. Their collaboration with Jonas Mekas continued until 2019 through several curatorial and editorial projects. www.e-ven.net

Francesco Urbano Ragazzi. Portrait © Scott Rudd

Francesco Urbano Ragazzi. Portrait © Scott Rudd