As It Happens

Artist thrilled Hillary Clinton read her own emails at his art exhibit

Kenneth Goldsmith can't decide if Hillary Clinton's leaked emails are extremely boring or the greatest epic poem of the 21st century. 

Kenneth Goldsmith says the emails are either an 'epic poem' or 'really boring'

Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton poses at an art exhibition, where she read out her own emails. (Gerda Studio/Reuters)


Kenneth Goldsmith can't decide if Hillary Clinton's emails are extremely boring or the greatest epic poem of the 21st century. 

The U.S. artist's new exhibit, titled Hillary, the Hillary Clinton Emails, is on display at the Despar Teatro Italia in Venice. It features all the emails she sent and received from a private server when she was secretary of state, printed out on 63,000 pages and stacked on a replica of the Oval Office desk.

And Clinton herself turned up to check it out on Tuesday.

"She went in there and she sat behind a copy of the Resolute Desk and she began to sit down and read her own email," Goldsmith told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"I thought it was great. I couldn't have imagined that would have happened, but it did happen and I thought it was a very happy occasion."

'Mythical status'

The emails, sent from a private server between 2009 and 2013, triggered an FBI investigation in 2016, which concluded that 110 of the 30,000 messages contained classified information.

The FBI did not recommend criminal charges against Clinton for the security breach, but then-director James Comey publicly chided her for being "extremely careless."

"It was and is still one of the strangest, most absurd events in American political history," Clinton told Italian news outlet TGR Veneto after browsing the exhibit. "Anyone can go in and look at them — there's nothing there."

Clinton is seen at an art exhibition, where she reads her emails bound in a book. (Gerda Studio/Reuters)

That's also how Goldsmith sees it, he said. 

He says the emails — which Clinton has blamed, in part, for tanking her presidential campaign against Donald Trump — are much ado about nothing.

Asked which ones stood out for him, he mentioned one where Clinton shared an article with her staff about Russian President Vladimir Putin travelling to the North Pole to shake hands with a polar bear, and another where she advised her campaign chairman John Podesta to wear socks to bed on a cold night.

"Those are some of the more interesting ones," he said.

Kenneth Goldsmith is a U.S. artist who built an exhibit out of Hillary Clinton's emails. (Submitted by Kenneth Goldsmith)

Goldsmith said he's long been fascinated by the scandal.

"Truth be told, they're not too much different than anyone's inbox, and yet because of their historical import, obviously the most important historical documents of our time, they've taken on mythical status," he said.

"They're sort of Homeric in scope, Shakespearean in intrigue, Toynbeean in sweep. I mean, they're either the first epic poem of the 21st century or they're just tens of thousands of really boring emails."

Either way, he says he's grateful the former secretary of state has taken an interest. 

"Before she came, there was no reaction. I was a little depressed," he said. "Now suddenly the whole world's paying attention to it."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. 



  • An earlier version of this story misquoted Kenneth Goldsmith as saying Hillary Clinton's emails may be "the first epic poem of the 20th century." In fact, he said 21st century.
    Sep 13, 2019 11:26 AM ET


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