Kenneth Goldsmith hates Facebook. / Photo Credit: © C. Jones
October 26, 2009
Posted by: Meg Peterson
Kenneth Goldsmith is a man of many talents. He is a poet, professor of Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, Senior Editor of PENNsound, radio-show host on WFMU, and founding editor of UbuWeb — “a completely independent resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts.” For his PMMNLS talk, Goldsmith chose to focus on UbuWeb, walking us through the site, its ideologies, and cruising it’s content to pluck a few gems from it’s mass of nearly five terabytes of archived material.
Before stepping up to the podium, Goldsmith hit play on a beautiful Jonas Mekas video from Ubu, Happy Birthday to John (1972). Wildly intimate footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono: the best possible way to render a fidgeting crowd of art nerds completely rapt. Of the 5,000 or so artists that are hosted on Ubu, only a handful have given permission for their work to be posted. However, since Ubu’s inception in 1996, the site has only suffered about 20 take-downs, (and will always remove work at an artist’s request.) Goldsmith iterated that he finds it a great triumph that Ubu is able to post material related to Lennon, “Pop’s greatest commodity”, without people getting terribly upset about it. This is due in part because “Ubu chooses not to fuck with legitimate economies.” Ubu users will never find a scrap of Madonna material on the site, but one can peruse such curiosities as the music of Marcel Duchamp, the paintings of William S. Burroughs, as well as other Lennon-related oddities; such as seven minutes of John fiddling with a radio dial. The site is highly curated, which is what makes it so good — but also follows the mantra that anything is publishable, even if it is a thousand-page PDF. Goldsmith insists that the site is esentially a fanzine, a contraption made out of toothpicks and paperclips, and an art historian’s nightmare. Yet, it out MOMA’s MOMA on the internet. It houses a sea of material that would otherwise remain inaccessable outside gallery walls. It’s free, and it will always* be free.
*We’re in the SUMMER OF LOVE with the web, and it isn’t going to last forever.
If you see something you like, PDF IT.
But, you know — It’s like Whack-A-Mole. You can take things down, but you can never get rid of them.

Tonight’s PMMNLS Lecture (November 2, 2009):
The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest
Portland State University: Shattuck Hall Annex
1914 SW Park Ave.