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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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In an excerpt from from his recent project “A Week at The Airport“, Alain de Botton interviews the head of British Airways, and considers the true yield of ‘profitless’ industries:

Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. In this sense, then, the CEO and I, despite our apparent differences, were in much the same sort of business, each one needing to justifying itself in the eyes of humanity not so much by its bottom line as by its ability to stir people’s souls. It seemed no less absurd to evaluate an airline according to its profit-and-loss statement than to judge a great poet by his or her royalty statements. The stock market could never put a price on the thousands of moments of beauty and interest that occurred around the world every day under the airline’s banner: it could not describe the sight of Nova Scotia from the air, it had no room in its optics for the camaraderie enjoyed by employees in the Hong Kong ticket office, it had no means of quantifying the ecstasy of takeoff. In order to understand such things properly, society would have to learn to look at airlines as one might consider a work of art.”

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#1

Harlan Ellison: “I sell my soul — but at the highest rates.”

#2

From the start of a discussion over at Zoë Westhof’s Essential Prose on getting paid for doing what you love:

I believe that the question of whether or not to combine one’s passion with one’s income is truly personal. Though it often seems like it would be insane to turn down the chance to turn your passion into a successful career, I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been there and been disillusioned.

And:

It can be liberating and glorious to find a way to make money doing what you love, but it also brings in a lot of baggage. Baggage like obligations and ROI and finances. It can also mean compromising your pure passion to make it more marketable. In reality, many people who try to combine passion and career end up shooting too broadly — the freelance writer who loves writing, but then realizes it’s actually just writing poetry that he loves. Not writing ad copy, or white papers. But he’s making a living writing, so isn’t he doing what he loves?

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