Kenneth Goldsmith. Image by C. Jones.
As the depositaries of social culture disappear, it is immediately out of the register.
UbuWeb is intriguing, expansive, bizarre, avant-garde and, if you have OCD, ultimately terrifying and could swallow you whole for a week or a year. It’s really hard to explain because that’s sort of… everything. The simple description is that this is a website, but after that things get really complicated.
Here’s an attempt in knowing it is woefully inadequate: a resonant Wikipedia and Wikileaks sociocultural obsessorium with a bit of Bing, bullshit, and some serious crazy heads thrown together in minimal order and inundated with tempting rabbitholes.
Ubu doesn’t even try, describing himself as what he isn’t: “No sniffers, no trackers, no ads, no cookies, no data collection, no marketing, no list of mailing, no donation box, no scratch, no terms & conditions, no permission, no money. Who you are and what you do is none of our business.
It’s obsessively simple, built on old-school HTML from the days of dial-up modems with lists of clicks to clicks endlessly. There are no fancy graphics or fancy backgrounds. It’s a testament to a simplicity in which the world got lost in trying to make design more accessible.
Ubu is fiercely independent and affiliated with nothing but the man who started him, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania named Kenneth Goldsmith. Its mission was to democratize the avant-garde, taking the type of material found in niche film archives or research libraries and making it accessible to everyone.
There is a recording of Bob Dylan reprimand a journalist for not having obtained permission to transcribe a private discussion. A play by Canadian poet Christian Bök entitled Towards a potential robopoetics with the subtitle: This thesis will show that the love of a man and a woman is not the love of steak and lettuce. There is a little-known movie, Chelsea Girls, by Andy Warhol.
Under videos is a rare conference by the legendary psychologist Jacques Lacan who travels through a speak on death, language, psychoanalysis, love, alienation, paranoia and life to an adoring audience. And at all as venerated Jacques Derrida speaking of wanting to destroy everything he writes at the end of each day for fear of the damage he causes to the world with his words.
There are hundreds of weird posters proclaiming things like “Womp Sucks”, “You wanna fuck yourself?” with phone number tear-off labels and “God’s answer to the AIDS epidemic in America revealed to evangelist Andre Vonn on May 7, 1966”.
Under ‘Movie’ are thousands of entries which lead to thousands more. They range from beautiful, surprising and lyrical to silly, shocking and just plain bad.
The list is accompanied by a disclaimer: “We realize that the films we are showing are of poor quality. This is not a bad thing. In fact, the best thing that can happen is that seeing a lousy shockwave file will make you want to take a trip to New York to the Anthology Film Archives or the Lux Cinema in London.
You will (almost by accident) find a rare video on the life of Salvador Dalí, the brilliant Rolling stone interview with John Lennon, a hacked Bengali version of Tintin in Congo, Frank Zappa reading The talking asshole of Naked lunch by William Burroughs and 600 pages rhymed phrases, sorted by syllables and alphabetized: a, aar, aas, aer, agh, ah, air, är, are, arh, arre, arrgh, ars, aude, aw, awe, Ayr, Ba, ba, baa, baaaahh, baar, bah, etc.
Ubu’s “Sound” section is a canyon of possibilities, claiming to cover the entire 20th century and beyond. Categories include Dadaism, Futurism, Early 20th Century Literary Experiences, Concrete Music, Electronic Music, Fluxus, Beat Sound Works, Minimalist and Process Works, Performance Art, Plunderphonics and digital glitch works, among others.
But you won’t find the music in those categories because, Ubu says, the categories have become less and less relevant, “a fact that we accept.” The artists are therefore listed in alphabetical order.
Ubu shamelessly tears up copyright, claiming that “all MP3s served on UbuWeb are either out of print, incredibly hard to find, or, in our opinion, absurdly overpriced.” Likely because he has no money, he has never been prosecuted, although he deleted, on request, John Cage’s unauthorized copy of his completely silent play, 4’33.
Now, you see the picture …
Where internet hacking is generally a secret and shady business, Goldsmith is readily outspoken about it. His new book, Duchamp is my lawyer, is a staunch praise of blatant copyright infringement, documenting the life and times of UbuWeb and its various run-ins with the law. “Copyright trolls” hoping to make a quick buck on things they don’t own, can’t find anything that sticks. People don’t see, Goldsmith says, that piracy is the highest form of flattery.
The book pays homage to all the other “ghost librarians” and guerrilla archivists who have embarked on a crusade to prevent the privatization of culture.
Goldsmith describes himself as a provocateur and a poet highlighting what had fallen through the cracks. For Day (2003), he typed a whole number of the New York Times and published it as an 827-page book. In Weather (2005), he did the same for radio weather forecasts; in Circulation (2007), for traffic reports. Sales weren’t good, he admits. The books were also illegible.
For the Venice Biennale 2019, he uploaded all of Hillary Clinton’s allegedly missing emails to WikiLeaks and linked all 62,000 pages in books, displaying them on specially designed library shelves alongside a copy. from the Oval Office.
However, although UbuWeb is an Internet treasure house, Goldsmith does not like the contemporary Internet very much. He is appalled at its “ever-increasing stupidity, mercantilism and surveillance capitalism.”
“Magical things,” he says, “happen at the margins.” As the peripheries disappear, UbuWeb must be one of the widest margins on the planet. DM / ML
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This notice was published: 2021-06-07 20:54:11