HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails

curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi

Despar Teatro Italia, Venice 

May 9 – Nov 24, 2019

Share on:

Press Release

The exhibition is 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 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.

Courtesy of the artist
Photo by Giorgio De Vecchi

LAYR, Vienna
High Art, Paris
Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Kristiansand
Der Tank of the Art Institute, Basel
Lafayette Anticipations, Paris
Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon
JTT, New York
Édouard Montassut, Paris