Friday, August 24, 2007

An Avant-Garde One-Two

I stumbled across UbuWeb a couple of years back while trying to track down some obscure experimental films (still fruitless on a few of them... *le sigh*). A 100% free, non-commercial web collection of avant-garde whatever you want, I've visited it intermittently since then. Despite being the compendium of my dreams, the vast -- and oh god, is it ever vast -- amount of material available combined with (what was) a slightly scattershot design was a little overwhelming and kept me at arm's length. I checked it for the first time in quite a while today, and shit done gone and got streamlined -- the film and sound sections are especially improved. Any wisp of an excuse I had to avoid an Ubu addiction is gone. Things is about to get heavy.

I also partially bring it up because I am completely endeared to the site's philosophy. Read their manifesto. From it:

UbuWeb has no need for money, funding or backers. Our web space is provided by an alliance of interests sympathetic to our vision. Donors with an excess of bandwidth contribute to our cause. All labour and editorial work is voluntary; no money changes hands. Totally independent from institutional support, UbuWeb is free from academic bureaucracy and its attendant infighting, which often results in compromised solutions; we have no one to please but ourselves.

In the FAQ, the site responds in the negative to a question the possibility of e-mail updates, because they "refuse to advertise or promote" themselves. Ubu recognizes itself as a nothing but a resource, a collection of art otherwise not readily available. This is, of course, beneficial to both the artists and the audience, but UbuWeb doesn't seem to function for either the artist (the site dismisses the idea of copyright entirely, only removing work that is in-print and easily acquired or when they receive a cease and desist request from the artist) or the audience (a refusal to advertise or promote implies that they don't give a fuck who else comes to the site). No, it would seem that Ubu is simply around to collect thoughts and minds otherwise out of reach. If art exists, it should be available for the taking. And nothing provides existence quite like the Internet. It's a bold site, and I applaud them for making this work available and for recognizing the necessity of free trade for marginalized art. But I applaud them much, much, much more for doing so entirely by and for themselves. Despite the fact that UbuWeb isn't exactly an artistic endeavor, there's a lesson way deep down in there that we can and should be mining. I'm still trying to hone it to a concise statement -- thoughts?


And the fine folks over at the London-based avant-gardist Atlas Press have announced some new and forthcoming titles, which is pretty big news: it's a very small publisher with a shall we say 'relaxed' release schedule. I own a few of their books and have many, many more on my wishlist (wishlist as in wishing for a stronger dollar). Check them out; it's one of the only places you're going to find dedicated volumes to artists such as the Vienna Aktionists, Oulipo, 'Pataphysics, Fluxus, Decadents and some of the more obscure Dadaists and Surrealists. And they're good people to boot.


1 comment:

Bil said...

Oh my god, I had never even heard of UbuWeb! I'm glad I came across this post while on my lunch hour at work and thus have no sound, or I might well miss my flight from O'Hare.