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permission

I went to a lecture by Kenneth Goldsmith last night about UbuWeb, and it was a great reminder of the riches available there. I scribbled a few fragmentary notes.

(All quotes are 99% accurate, though I have re-ordered them a little bit.)

  • UbuWeb can be construed as the “Robin Hood” of the Avant Garde. Only a handful of artists have given explicit consent to be featured.
  • “If we had to ask permission, UbuWeb wouldn’t exist.”
  • “We don’t really fuck with economies — because there’s no economy for this stuff.” (This stuff meaning, the music of Marcel Duchamp or Jean Dubuffet, for example.)
  • “We respect legitimate economies.”
  • UbuWeb features five terabytes of work from 5,000+ artists.
  • When he was working on his collection of Warhol interviews, Goldsmith went to the offices of the Warhol foundation to get permission, and they “laughed him out of the office.” In their view, Warhol’s words are valueless.
  • “Download everything you possibly can from UbuWeb — it won’t last forever.”
  • “The outsider stuff is becoming the inside.”
  • “There’s so much stuff on UbuWeb that I don’t know what’s there.” (Editors help him by managing different sections.)
  • UbuWeb is not a democracy: The collection is “highly curated, highly selective.” Most submissions don’t make it on the site.
  • UbuWeb has a Facebook page, created by his students, but Kenneth Goldsmith was unequivocal: “I hate Facebook.”
  • “I have problems with the idea of quality in Web 2.0.” And donation buttons make him sick.
  • From time to time, he gets offers — up to US$50,000 — for the domain ubu.com, from companies who want to sell products that “help you be you!” etc. And he takes great pleasure in replying: “Fuck you: This is reserved for poetry.” (I instantly pictured an orange traffic cone with this response, embossed on a metal plate, sticking out of the top. And the entrepreneurial part of my brain thinks it would make a great embroidered fishing hat…or maybe stickers that could be placed wherever logos lurk?)
  • UbuWeb may look institutional, but “it’s made of toothpicks and tissue paper.”
  • “I’m not an art historian…there are holes…it’s a horribly-flawed fanzine…the taxonomy is atrocious…it’s an art historian’s nightmare!”
  • “We’re in the Summer of Love for the web right now, and it’s not going to last…We’re in the midst of a revolution that’s so large we don’t even recognize it.”
  • “Old hippies are the worst in the world” in terms of copyright, control, permissions and sharing. “It’s generational.”

A few gleanings from a look around the site this morning:

  • A film about Poême électronique, the collaboration between Edgard Varêse and Le Corbusier at the 1958 World’s Fair
  • John Cale — Loop (1966) (links directly to mp3)
  • Canntaireachd — “Dating back to the sixteenth century or earlier, canntaireachd developed as the art of “chanting” pibroch (piobaireachd), the classical form of Gaelic bagpipe music.”
  • They have a podcast, in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation.

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