ubuweb in Adema 2009

and by offering and hosting these
works on its platform, Ubu is violating copyright laws. As they state however:
‘ _should something return to print, we will remove it from our site
immediately. Also, should an artist find their material posted on UbuWeb
without permission and wants it removed, please let us know. However, most of
the time, we find artists are thrilled to find their work cared for and
displayed in a sympathetic context. As always, we welcome more work from
existing artists on site_.

ubuweb in Barok 2018

e") (The Pirate Bay), [Vicki
Bennett](/Vicki_Bennett "Vicki Bennett") (People Like Us), [Cornelia
Sollfrank](/Cornelia_Sollfrank "Cornelia Sollfrank") (Giving What You Don't
Have), and Prodromos Tsiavos, the event was part of the _[Shadow Libraries:
UbuWeb in Athens](http://www.sgt.gr/eng/SPG2018/) _programme organised by [Ilan
Manouach](/Ilan_Manouach "Ilan Manouach"), Kenneth Goldsmith and the Onassis

[![Shadow Libraries.jpg](/images/thumb/8/8e/Shadow_Libraries.jpg/500px-

ubuweb in Constant 2016

mencé à se
répandre. Ce phénomène a mis en
relief la question de la classe dans la
demande naissante pour un accès
public aux livres.


It is within and against this milieu that libraries such as
the Internet Archive, Wikileaks, Aaaaarg, UbuWeb,
Monoskop, Memory of the World, Nettime, TheNextLayer
and others gain their political agency. Their countertechniques for negotiating the publicness of publishing
include self-archiving, open access, book liberation,
leaking, whistleblowing, open sou

ubuweb in Dekker & Barok 2017

ation of the university (in the
context of which Aaaaarg will always come as secondary, as
an extension of The Public School in Los Angeles); Kenneth
aims to revive the literary avant-garde while standing on the
shoulders of his heroes documented on UbuWeb; Sebastian
Lütgert and Jan Berger are the most serious software developers among us, while their projects such as Textz.com and
Pad.ma should be read against critical theory and Situationist cinema; Femke Snelting has initiated the collaborative

an resuscitated Textz.com. Besides that, there are
overlaps in titles hosted in each library, and Monoskop bibliographies extensively link to scans on Libgen and Aaaaarg,
while artists’ profiles on the website link to audio and video
recordings on UbuWeb.




It is interesting to hear that there weren’t any archivist or
professional librarians involved (yet), what is your position
towards these professional and institutional entities and

As the rece

rse particularly
pertinent, especially since while we’re doing this interview
Sean and Marcell are being sued by a Canadian publisher.

That is absolutely true and any of these websites can disappear any time. Archives like Aaaaarg, Monoskop or UbuWeb
are created by makers rather than guardians and it comes





Fuller, Matthew. ‘In the Paradise of Too Many Books: An Interview with
Sean Dockray’. Mute,

ubuweb in Dockray, Forster & Public Office 2018

sevier for $15 million, resulting in a permanent injunction.
Library Genesis, another library of comparable scale, finds itself in a
similar legal predicament.

Arguably one of the largest digital archives of the “avant-garde” (loosely
defined), UbuWeb is transparent about this fragility. In 2011, its founder
[Kenneth Goldsmith wrote](http://www.ubu.com/resources/): “by the time you
read this, UbuWeb may be gone. […] Never meant to be a permanent archive, Ubu
could vanish for any number of reasons: our ISP pulls the plug, our university
support dries up, or we simply grow tired of it.” Even the banality of
exhaustion is a real risk to these l

ion of the contents) then
they are sharing in the hosting of the contents as well. Individuals, as
supporters of an archive or members of a community, can organise together to
guarantee the durability and accessibility of an archive, saving a future
UbuWeb from ever having to worry about if their ‘ISP pulling the plug’. As
supporters of many archives, as members of many communities, individuals can
use Dat Library to perform this function many times over.

On the Web, individuals are usually users

ubuweb in Giorgetta, Nicoletti & Adema 2015

cused on user needs and
publishing models concerning Open Access books in the Humanities and Social

**Davide Giorgetta & Valerio Nicoletti: Does a way out from the debate between
publishers and digital independent libraries (Monoskop Log, Ubuweb,
Aaaarg.org) exist, in terms of copyright? An alternative solution able to
solve the issue and to provide equal opportunities to everyone? Would the fear
of publishers of a possible reduction of incomes be legitimized if the access
to their digital p

ubuweb in Goldsmith 0


Kenneth Goldsmith


ions. Nor do we -- or shall we ever -- sell
anything on the site. No one makes a salary here and the work is all done
voluntarily (more love hours than can ever be repaid). Our bandwidth and
server space is donated by universities.

We know that UbuWeb is not very good. In terms of films, the selection is
random and the quality is often poor. The accompanying text to the films can
be crummy, mostly poached from whatever is available around the net. So are
the films: they are mostly grabbed from pri

such fare is shown,
trapped by economics, geography, career, circumstance, health, family, etc. --
Ubu is the only lifeline to this kind of work. As such, we believe that we do
more good in the world than harm.

An ideal situation happened when UbuWeb was asked to participate in a
[show](http://www.cca.qc.ca/en/intermission) at the CCA in Montreal. The CCA
insisted on showing hi-res films, which they rented from distributors of
materials that Ubu hosts. We were thrilled. By having these materials

owever, I can be
contacted [here](http://ubu.com/contact) and am happy to respond.

It think that, in the end, Ubu is a provocation to your community to go ahead
and do it right, do it better, to render Ubu obsolete. Why should there only
be one UbuWeb? You have the tools, the resources, the artwork and the
knowledge base to do it so much better than I'm doing it. I fell into this as
Ubu has grown organically (we do it because we can) and am clearly not the
best person to be representing experimental cinema. Ubu would love you to step
in and help make it better. Or, better yet, put us out of business by doing it
correctly, the way it should have been done in the first place.

Kenneth Goldsmith


ubuweb in Goldsmith 2011

age work yet produced in poetry" by _Publishers Weekly._
Goldsmith is the author of eight books of poetry, founding editor of the
online archive UbuWeb (http://ubu.com), and the editor _I 'll Be Your Mirror:
The Selected Andy Warhol..._

years, we're still going
strong. We're lab rats under a microscope: in exchange for the big-ticket
bandwidth, we've consented to be objects of university research in the
ideology and practice of radical distribution.

But by the time you read this, UbuWeb may be gone. Cobbled together, operating
on no money and an all-volunteer staff, UbuWeb has become the unlikely
definitive source for all things avant-garde on the internet. Never meant to
be a permanent archive, Ubu could vanish for any number of reasons: our ISP
pulls the plug, our university support dries up, or we simply grow tired

t The
Museum of Modern Art in New York, there was no sign of [TELEVISION DELIVERS
PEOPLE](http://www.ubu.com/film/serra_television.html) (1973) or
[BOOMERANG](http://www.ubu.com/film/serra_boomerang.html) (1974), both being
well-visited resources on UbuWeb. Similarly, Salvador Dali’s obscure video,
ROUSSEL](http://www.ubu.com/film/dali_impressions.html) from the mid-70s can
be viewed. Outside of UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1929), it’s the only other film he
completed in his lifetime. While you won’t find reproductions of Dali’s
paintings on UbuWeb, you will find [a 1967 recording of an advertisement he
made for a bank.](http://ubumexico.centro.org.mx/sound/dali_salvador/Dali-

It’s not all off-beat: there is, in all fairness, lots of primary expressions

, [the concrete
poems of Mary Ellen Solt](http://ubu.com/historical/solt/index.html), [the
writings of Maurice Blanchot](http://ubu.com/ubu/blanchot_last_man.html) and
the [music of Meredith Monk](http://www.ubu.com/sound/monk.html), to name a

UbuWeb began in 1996 as a site focusing on visual and concrete poetry. With
the advent of the graphical web browser, we began scanning old concrete poems,
astonished by how fresh they looked backlit by the computer screen. Shortly
thereafter, when streaming

oncrete poetry”
was. As time went on, we seemed to be outgrowing our original taxonomies until
we simply became a repository for the “avant-garde” (whatever that means—our
idea of what is “avant-garde” seems to be changing all the time). UbuWeb
adheres to no one historical narrative, rather we’re more interested in
putting several disciplines into the same space and seeing how they interact:
poetry, music, film, and literature from all periods encounter and bounce off
of each other in une

legendary avant-gardist
[Nicolas Slonimsky](http://www.ubu.com/outsiders/365/2003/070.shtml), an
early-to-mid-twentieth century conductor, performer, and composer belting out
advertisements and children’s ditties on the piano in an off-key voice. UbuWeb
had already been hosting historical recordings from the 1920s he
[conducted](http://www.ubu.com/sound/slonimsky.html) of [Charles
Nicolas_02_Ives-Barn-Dance.mp3), [Carl

years back, Jerome Rothenberg, the leading scholar of
[Ethnopoetics](http://ubu.com/ethno/), approached us with an idea to include a
wing which would feature Ethnopoetic sound, visual art, poetry, and essays.
Rothenberg’s interest was specific to UbuWeb: how the avant-garde dovetailed
with the world’s deep cultures—those surviving in situ as well as those that
had vanished except for transcriptions in books or recordings from earlier
decades. Sound offerings include everything from [Slim

gler, Severo Sarduy, and Juliana Spahr. And finally there is a [Conceptual
Writing](http://ubu.com/concept/index.html) wing which highlights contemporary
trends in poetry as well as its historical precedents.

How does it all work? Most importantly, UbuWeb functions on no money: all work
is done by volunteers. Our server space and bandwidth is donated by several
universities, who use UbuWeb as an object of study for ideas related to
radical distribution and gift economies on the web. In terms of content, each
section has an editor who brings to the site their area of expertise. Ubu is
constantly being updated but the mission is different from the flotsam and
jetsam of a blog; rather, we liken it to a library which is ever-expanding in
uncanny—and often uncategorizable—directions. Fifteen years into it, UbuWeb
hosts over 7,500 artists and several thousand works of art. You’ll never find
an advertisement, a logo, or a donation box. UbuWeb has always been and will
always be free and open to all.

The future is eminently scalable: as long as we have the bandwidth and server
space, there is no limit as to how big the site can grow. For the moment, we
have no competition, a fact we’re not happy about. We’re distressed that there
is only one UbuWeb: why aren’t there dozens like it? Looking at the art world,
the problem appears to be a combination of an adherence to an old economy (one
that is working very well with a booming market) and sense of trepidation,
particularly in academic circles, where work on the internet is often not
considered valid for academic credit. As long as the art world continues to
prize economies of scarcity over those based on plentitude, the change will be
a long time coming. But UbuWeb seeks to offer an alternative by invoking a
gift economy of plentitude with a strong emphasis on global education. We’re
on numerous syllabi, ranging from kindergarteners studying pattern poetry to
post graduates listening to hours of Jacques Lacan

le of servers or
on the swiftest of machines; hacks and crashes eat into the archive on a
periodic basis; sometimes the site as a whole goes down for days; occasionally
the army of volunteers dwindles to a team of one. But that’s the beauty of it:
UbuWeb is vociferously anti-institutional, eminently fluid, refusing to bow to
demands other than what we happen to be moved by at a specific moment,
allowing us flexibility and the ability to continually surprise our audience .
. . and even ourselves.


l 26th, 2011

Kenneth Goldsmith's writing has been called some of the most "exhaustive and
beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry" by _Publishers Weekly._
Goldsmith is the author of eight books of poetry, founding editor of the
online archive UbuWeb (http://ubu.com), and the editor _I 'll Be Your Mirror:
The Selected Andy Warhol..._

ubuweb in Hamerman 2015

gn against the Stop Online Piracy Act,
which was defeated in 2012. Swartz’s actions and the fight around SOPA
represent a benchmark in the struggle for open-access and anti-copyright
practices surrounding the digital book.

Aaaaaarg, Monoskop, UbuWeb and Public Library are representative cases of the
pirate library because of their explicit engagement with archival form, their
embrace of ideas of the _[digital commons](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Commons)_ within current left-leaning th

resources. Its holdings include sound, video and text-based
works dating from the historical avant-garde era to today. While many of the
sites in the “pirate library” continuum source their content through
community-based or peer-to-peer models, UbuWeb focuses on making available out
of print, obscure or difficult to access artistic media, stating that
uploading such historical artifacts doesn’t detract from the physical value of
the work; rather, it enhances it. The website’s philosophy blends

have to operate
somewhat below the radar: it introduces a precariousness that doesn’t allow
imagination to really expand, as it becomes stuck on techniques of evasion,
distribution, and redundancy.”


UbuWeb and Monoskop, which digitize rare, out-of-print art texts and media
rather than in-print titles, can be said to fulfill the aims of preservation
and access. UbuWeb and Monoskop are openly used and discussed as classroom
resources and in online arts journalism more frequently than the more
aggressively anti-copyright sources; more on-the-record and mainstream
visibility likely -- but doesn’t necessarily -- equ

nnotated, critiqued, updated, shared, supplemented, revised, re-ordered,
reiterated and reimagined.” These projects allow us to re-imagine both
archival practices and the digital book for social networks based on the gift.

Aaaaaarg, Monoskop, UbuWeb, and Public Library build a record of critical and
artistic discourse that is held in common, user-responsive and networkable.
Amateur librarians sustain these projects through technological ‘hacks’ that
innovate upon present archival tools and p

ubuweb in Mars & Medak 2019

versities can stop faking ‘innovativity’, ‘efficiency’ and

article | 361

Custodians.online, the second letter
On 30 November, 2016 a second missive was published by Custodians.online
(2016). On the twentieth anniversary of UbuWeb, ‘the single-most important
archive of avant-garde and outsider art’ on the Internet, the drafters of the letter
followed up on their initial call to acts of care for the infrastructure of our shared
knowledge commons that the first letter ended

supported by a cultural activist community, and another one in Switzerland,
supported by a major art school – whose maintenance should ensure that Ubu
remains accessible even if its primary server is taken down.
McKenzie Wark in their text on UbuWeb poignantly observes that shadow
libraries are:
tactics for intervening in three kinds of practices, those of the art-world, of
publishing and of scholarship. They respond to the current institutional, technical
and political-economic constraints of a

ubuweb in Mars, Medak & Sekulic 2016

eated a number of 'shadow public libraries'
that provide universal access to knowledge
and culture in the digital domain in the way
that the public libraries are not allowed to:
Library Genesis, Science Hub, Aaaaarg,
Monoskop, Memory of the World or Ubuweb. They all have a simple objective – to
provide access to books, journals and digitised knowledge to all who find themselves
outside the rich academic institutions of the
West and who do not have the privilege of
institutional access.
These shadow p

ubuweb in Mars & Medak 2017

ary project (Memory of the World, 2016a) is a part of
a wider global movement based, amongst other influences, on the seminal work of
Aaron Swartz. This movement consists of various projects including but not
limited to Library Genesis, Aaaaarg.org, UbuWeb, and others. Please situate The
Public Library project in the wider context of this movement. What are its distinct
features? What are its main contributions to the movement at large?
MM & TM: The Public Library project is informed by two historic mo

ubuweb in Medak, Mars & WHW 2015

Public Library (essay)
Paul Otlet


Transformations in the Bibliographical
Apparatus of the Sciences
(Repertory — Classification — Office
of Documentation)
McKenzie Wark


Metadata Punk
Tomislav Medak
The Future After the Library
UbuWeb and Monoskop’s Radical Gestures


Marcell Mars,
Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak

Public library (essay)

In What Was Revolutionary about the French Revolution? 01 Robert Darnton considers how a complete collapse of the social order (when absolut

for the values upon which we have
built the public library: universal access to knowledge for each member of our society.
Freedom, equality, and brotherhood need brave librarians practicing civil disobedience.
Library Genesis, aaaaarg.org, Monoskop, UbuWeb
are all examples of fragile knowledge infrastructures
built and maintained by brave librarians practicing
civil disobedience which the world of researchers
in the humanities rely on. These projects are re-inventing the public library in the gap left

School”, The Public School, n.d.,

Public library (essay)


UbuWeb18 is the most significant and largest online
archive of avant-garde art; it was initiated and is lead
by conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith. UbuWeb,
although still informal, has grown into a relevant
and recognized critical institution of contemporary
art. Artists want to see their work in its catalog and
thus agree to a relationship with UbuWeb that has
no formal contractual obligations.
Monoskop is a wiki for the arts, culture, and media
technology, with a special focus on the avant-garde,
conceptual, and media arts of Eastern and Central
Europe; it was launched by Dušan Barok and others.

me. One I am not even going to name or
discuss, as discretion seems advisable in that case.
It takes matters off the internet and out of circulation among strangers. Ask me about it in person if
we meet in person.
The other two are Monoskop Log and UbuWeb.
It is hard to know what to call them. They are websites, archives, databases, collections, repositories,
but they are also a bit more than that. They could be
thought of also as the work of artists or of curators;
of publishers or of writers; of archivists or researchers. They contain lots of files. Monoskop is mostly
books and journals; UbuWeb is mostly video and
audio. The work they contain is mostly by or about
the historic avant-gardes.
Monoskop Log bills itself as “an educational
open access online resource.” It is a component part
of Monoskop, “a wiki for collaborative studies of
art, media and the humanities.” One commenter
thinks they see the “fingerprint of the curator” but
nobody is named as its author, so let’s keep it that
way. It is particularly strong on Eastern European
avant-garde material. UbuWeb is the work of Kenneth Goldsmith, and is “a completely independent
resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde,
ethnopoetics, and outsider arts.”
There’s two aspects to consider here. One is the
wealth of free material both sites colle

he material going on at these sites
themselves. Both of them model kinds of ‘curatorial’
or ‘publishing’ behavior.
For instance, Monoskop has wiki pages, some
better than Wikipedia, which contextualize the work
of a given artist or movement. UbuWeb offers “top
ten” lists by artists or scholars which give insight
not only into the collection but into the work of the
person making the selection.
Monoskop and UbuWeb are tactics for intervening in three kinds of practices, those of the artworld, of publishing and of scholarship. They respond to the current institutional, technical and
political-economic constraints of all three. As it
says in the Communist Manife

ot just a text or an
image but databases of potential texts and images,
with metadata attached.


McKenzie Wark

The object of any avant-garde is always to practice the relation between aesthetics and everyday
life with a new kind of intensity. UbuWeb and
Monoskop seem to me to be intimations of just
such an avant-garde movement. One that does not
offer a practice but a kind of meta-practice for the
making of the aesthetic within the everyday.
Crucial to this project is the shifting of aesthetic

to build another way
of life among the ruins. Here are some useful practices, in and on and of the ruins. ❧

Metadata Punk



public library



Tomislav Medak

The Future After the Library
UbuWeb and Monoskop’s
Radical Gestures

The institution of the public library has crystallized,
developed and advanced around historical junctures
unleashed by epochal economic, technological and
political changes. A series of crises since the advent
of p

are built. Copyright is a normative
classification that is totalizing, regardless of the
effects of leaky networks speaking to the contrary.
Few efforts have insisted on the subverting of juridical classification by copyright more lastingly than
the UbuWeb archive. Espousing the avant-gardes’
ethos of appropriation, for almost 20 years it has
collected and made accessible the archives of the
unknown; outsider, rare and canonized avant-gardes and contemporary art that would otherwise remained reserved for the vaults and restricted access
channels of esoteric markets, selective museological
presentations and institutional archives. Knowing
that asking to publish would amount to aligning itself with the totalizing logic of copyright, UbuWeb
has shunned the permission culture. At the level of
poetical operation, as a gesture of displacing the cultural archive from a regime of limited, into a regime
of unlimited access, it has created provocations and
challenges directed at the classifyin

s of property over cultural production.
One can only assume that as such it has become a
mechanism for small acts of treason for the artists,
who, short of turning their back fully on the institutional arrangements of the art world they inhabit,
use UbuWeb to release their own works into unlimited circulation on the net. Sometimes there might


Tomislav Medak

be no way or need to produce a work outside the
restrictions imposed by those institutions, just as
sometimes it is for academics impossible to avoid
the contradictory world of academic publishing,
yet that is still no reason to keep one’s allegiance to
their arrangements.
At the same time UbuWeb has played the game
of avant-gardist subversion: “If it doesn’t exist on
the internet, it doesn’t exist”. Provocation is most
effective when it is ignorant of the complexities of
the contexts that it is directed at. Its effect starts
where fissures in the defense of the opposition start
to show. By treating UbuWeb as massive evidence
for the internet as a process of reappropriation, a
process of “giving to all”, its volunteering spiritus
movens, Kenneth Goldsmith, has been constantly rubbing copyright apologists up the wrong way.
Rather than producing qual

ostages from the officially sanctioned systems
of classification. By letting the incumbents of control over cultural production react to the norm of
copying, you let them struggle to dispute the norm
rather than you having to try to defend the norm.
UbuWeb was an early-comer, starting in 1996
and still functioning today on seemingly similar
technology, it’s a child of the early days of World
Wide Web and the promissory period of the experimental internet. It’s resolutely Web 1.0, with
a single main

organizable and
controllable. The instabilities of the epistemic order
that the library continues to instigate at its margins
contributes to keeping the future open beyond the
script of ‘commodify and control’. In their acts of
re-appropriation UbuWeb and Monoskop.org are
but a reminder of the resilience of libraries’ instability that signals toward a future that can be made
radically open. ❧

08 In his article “Controlling the Future—Edward Snowden and
the New Era on Earth”, (accessed A

ubuweb in Sekulic 2018

art to reproduce”
some technologies used by corporations to enclose can be used to liberate
knowledge and make it accessible. The existence of projects such as Library
Genesis, sci-hub, Public Library/Memory of the World, aaaarg.org, monoskop,
and ubuweb, commonly known as shadow libraries, show how building
infrastructure for storing, indexing, and access, as well as supporting
digitization, can not only be put to use by the periphery, but used as a
challenge to the normalization of enclosure offere

ubuweb in Sollfrank 2018

nce of web quality digital artworks, thus placing emphasis on the very
media condition of such digital artifacts. The exhibition took place at the
Onassis Cultural Center in Athens in March 2018 and was part of the larger
festival _Shadow Libraries: UbuWeb in Athens_ ,1 an event to introduce the
online archive UbuWeb2 to the Greek audience and discuss related cultural,
ethical, technical, and legal issues. This text takes the event—and the
exhibition in particular—as a starting point for a closer look at UbuWeb and
the role an artistic approach can play in building cultural memory within the
neoliberal knowledge economy.

_UbuWeb—The Cultural Memory of the Avant-Garde_

Since Kenneth Goldsmith started Ubu in 1997 the site has become a major point
of refer

preservation of cultural goods by simply ignoring copyright induced
restrictions, i.e. opposing the insatiable hunger of the IP regime for

_Shadow Libraries_

Ubu was presented and discussed in Athens at an event titled _Shadow
Libraries: UbuWeb in Athens_ , thereby making clear reference to the ecosystem
of shadow libraries. A library, in general, is an institution that collects,
orders, and makes published information available while taking into account
archival, economic, and synoptic asp

native means of subsistence. In that sense, commons can be understood
as an _experimental zone_ in which participants can learn to negotiate
responsibilities, social relations, and peer-based means of production.

_Art and Commons_

Projects such as UbuWeb, Monoskop,30 aaaaarg,31 Memory of the World,32 and
0xdb33 vary in size, they have different forms of organization and foci, but
they all care for specific cultural goods and make sure these goods remain
widely accessible—be it digital copies of art

ed above, which aim to provide access to
hundreds of thousands, if not millions of mainly academic papers and books,
thus trying to fully cover the world of scholarly and academic works, the
smaller artist-run projects are of different nature. While UbuWeb’s founder,
for instance, also promotes a generally unrestricted access to cultural goods,
his approach with UbuWeb is to build a curated archive with copies of artworks
that he considers to be relevant for his very context.34 The selection is
based on personal assessment and preference and cared for affectionately.
Despite its comprehensiveness, it still can be c

be built that
exceed the relevance of most official archives that are bound to abide the
law. In fact, there are no comparable official resources, which is why the
function of these projects is at least twofold: education and preservation.37

Maybe UbuWeb and the other, smaller or larger, shadow libraries do not qualify
as commons in the strict sense of involving not only a non-market exchange of
goods but also a community of commoners who negotiate the terms of use among
themselves. This would requir

the future of cultural production.

Special thanks to Eric Steinhauer and all the artists and amateur librarians
who are taking care of our cultural memory.

1 Festival program online: Onassis Cultural Centre, “Shadow Libraries: UbuWeb
in Athens,” (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
2 _UbuWeb_ is a massive online archive of avant-garde art created over the
last two decades by New York-based artist and writer Kenneth Goldsmith.
Website of the archive:

ubuweb in Sollfrank & Goldsmith 2013

loud. I hate the cloud.

way of, you know, multi-media, impurity,
difference, all sorts of ways that it was never allowed to be used before. So
I've actually inhabited this term, and repurposed it. [4:15] So I don't really
know what avant-garde is, it's always changing. And UbuWeb is an archive that
is not pure avant-garde. You look at it and say, no, things are wrong there.
There's rock musicians, and there's performance artists, and there's
novelists. [4:33] I mean, it doesn't quite look like the avant-garde looked
before th

because everything is equal. There's a part of me that really
likes that idea, and it creates fabulous chaos. But I think it is a sort of a
curatorial job to go in and make sense of some of that chaos. In a very small
way, that's what I try to do on UbuWeb. [5:52] You know, it's the avant-garde,
it's not a big project. It's a rather small slice of culture that one can have
a point of view. I'm not saying that's right. It's probably very wrong. But
nobody else it's doing it, so I figured, you know… [6:12] But by virtue of the
fact that there's only one UbuWeb, it's become institutional. And the reason
that there is only one UbuWeb is that UbuWeb ignores copyright. And everybody
else, of course, is afraid of copyright. There should be hundreds of UbuWebs.
It is ridiculous that there's only one. But everybody else is afraid of
copyright, so that nobody would put anything on. [6:41] We just act like
copyright doesn't exist. Copyright, what's that? Never heard of it.


I think that these artifacts that are on UbuWeb are very valuable historically
and culturally, they are very significant. But economically, I don't think
they had that type of value. And I love small labels that try to put these
things out. But they inevitably loose money by trying to put these th

was for William S.
Burroughs, and the list went on for pages and pages and pages. And then, at
the end, it says, "Under the threat of perjury, I state these facts to be
true," signed such and such person. [9:05] Now, what they did, they went into
UbuWeb and they put the words "William S. Burroughs," and they came up with
every instance of William S. Burroughs. If William S. Burroughs is mentioned
in an academic paper: that's our copyright. Nick Currie Momus wrote a song "I
Love You William S. Burroughs.” Now, Nick gave UbuWeb all of his songs. I know
that Nick owns the copyright to that. [9:30] I said, you know, it's
ridiculous! And even the things that they were claiming… It was the most
ridiculous thing. [9:37] So I wrote them back. I said: Look, I get what you're

as music in the background by the Rolling Stones, you have to
clear the right for the Rolling Stones and pay that a little bit of money. And
you know, licenses... I couldn't do that. I do this with no money. That would
take millions… [13:14] To do UbuWeb permission, the right way, correctly,
would take millions of millions of euros. And I built this whole thing from
nothing. Zero money. [13:26] So, you know... I think I'd love to be able to
ask for permission, do things the right way. It is the right

e avant-garde that I'm talking about. You say,
oh, you know, he was actually as good of a composer as he was a painter.
[15:58] So, you know, this is the kind of weird thing that's happened on
UbuWeb, I think. [16:04] But what's even better, is that UbuWeb, you know... I
care about Jean Dubuffet, or I care about Art Brut, and the history of all
that. [16:14] But usually what happens is, kids come into UbuWeb and they know
nothing about the history. And they’re usually kids that are making dance
music. But they go, oh, all these weird sounds at this place, lets take them.
And so they plunder the archive. So you have Bruce Nauman, you know, "Get out
of m

But it's searchable.

Yea, it's got like a dumb, you know, a little free search engine on it, but I
don't do anything. You see, this is the thing. [17:15] For many, many years
people would always come up to me and say, we'd like to put UbuWeb in a
database. And I said no. It’s working really well as it is. And, you know,
imagine if Ubu had been locked up in some sort of horrible SQL database. And
the administrator of the database walks away, the guy that knows all that
stuff walks away

for a little while. And there was a big celebration on the FrameWorks list.
They said, the enemy is finally gone! We can return to life as normal. So I
responded to them. [19:14] I wrote an open letter to FrameWorks (which you can
actually find on UbuWeb) challenging them, saying, actually Ubu is a friend of
yours. I'm actually promoting your work for no money. I love what you do. I'm
a fan. There's no way I'm an enemy. [19:31] And I said, by the way, if you are
celebrating Ubu being down, I think it

n. It went up and we moved on.

Un/stable archives

If you work on something for an hour a day for 17 years – 2 hours, 3 hours –
you come up with something really substantial. [20:45] The web is very
ephemeral, and UbuWeb is just as ephemeral. It’s amazing that it's been there
for as long as it has, but tomorrow it could vanish. I could get sued. I could
get bored. Maybe I just walk away and blow it up, I don't know! Why do I need
to keep doing all this work for? [2

ubuweb in Stalder 2018

sers, who are unfamiliar with the complex legal situation, with
the impression that they are even more out-of-date than they often are.

Informal actors, who explicitly operate beyond the realm of copyright
law, are not faced with such restrictions. UbuWeb, for instance, which
is the largest online archive devoted to the history of
twentieth-century avant-garde art, was not created by an art museum but
rather by the initiative of an individual artist, Kenneth Goldsmith.
Since 1996, he has been collecti

n distribution and placing them online for free and
without any stipulations. He forgoes the process of obtaining the rights
to certain works of art because, as he remarks on the website, "Let\'s
face it, if we had to get permission from everyone on UbuWeb, there
would be no UbuWeb."[^18^](#c2-note-0018){#c2-note-0018a} It would
simply be too demanding to do so. Because he pursues the project without
any financial interest and has saved so much []{#Page_66
type="pagebreak" title="66"}from oblivion, his efforts have provoked
hardly any legal difficulties. On the contrary, UbuWeb has become so
important that Goldsmith has begun to receive more and more material
directly from artists and their heirs, who would like certain works not
to be forgotten. Nevertheless, or perhaps for this very reason,
Goldsmith repeatedly stresses the instability of his archive, which
could disappear at any moment if he loses interest in maintaining it or
if something else happens. Users are therefore able to download works
from UbuWeb and archive, on their own, whatever items they find most
important. Of course, this fragility contradicts the idea of an archive
as a place for long-term preservation. Yet such a task could only be
undertaken by an institution that is oriented toward

ubuweb in Thylstrup 2019

trajectory, rooted in Bratislava’s digital scene as an attempt to establish an
intellectual platform for the study of avant-garde (digital) cultures that
could connect its Bratislava-based creators to a global scene. Finally, the
chapter looks at UbuWeb, a shadow library dedicated to avant-garde cultural
works ranging from text and audio to images and film. Founded in 1996 as a US-
based noncommercial file-sharing site by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to
the marginal distribution of crucial avant-garde material, UbuWeb today offers
a wealth of avant-garde sound art, video, and textual works.

As the case studies show, shadow libraries have become significant mass
digitization infrastructures that offer the user free access to academic
articles and books, often by m

e of including more complex spatial dynamics in
one’s analytical matrix of shadow libraries, if one wishes to understand them
as more than globalized breakers of code and arbiters of what Manuel Castells
once called the “space of flows.”48

## UbuWeb

If Monoskop is one of the most comprehensive shadow libraries to emerge from
critical-artistic practice, UbuWeb is one of the earliest ones and has served
as an inspirational example for Monoskop. UbuWeb is a website that offers an
encyclopedic scope of downloadable audio, video, and plain-text versions of
avant-garde art recordings, films, and books. Most of the books fall in the
category of small-edition artists’ books and are presented on the site with
permission from the artists in question, who are not so concerned with
potential loss of revenue since most of the works are officially out of print
and never made any money even when they were commercially available. At first
glance, UbuWeb’s aesthetics appear almost demonstratively spare. Still
formatted in HTML, it upholds a certain 1990s net aesthetics that has resisted
the revamps offered by the new century’s more dynamic infrastructures. Yet, a
closer look reveals that UbuWeb offers a wealth of content, ranging from high
art collections to much more rudimentary objects. Moreover, and more
fundamentally, its critical archival practice raises broader infrapolitical
questions of cultural hierarchies, infrastructures, and domination.

### Shadow Libraries between Gift Economies and Marginalized Forms of

UbuWeb was founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to the marginal
distribution of crucial avant-garde material. It provides open access both to
out-of-print works that find a second life through digital art reprint and to
the work of contemporary artists. Upon its opening in 2001, Kenneth Goldsmith
termed UbuWeb’s economic infrastructure a “gift economy” and framed it as a
political statement that highlighted certain problems in the distribution of
and access to intellectual materials:

> Essentially a gift economy, poetry is the perfect space to practice utopian
politics. Freed from profit-making constraints or cumbersome fabrication
considerations, information can literally “be free”: on UbuWeb, we give it
away. … 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. … UbuWeb posts
much of its content without permission; we rip full-length CDs into sound
files; we scan as many books as we can get our hands on; we post essays as
fast as we can OCR them. And not once have we been issued a cease and desist
order. Instead, we receive glowing emails from artists, publishers, and record
labels finding their work on UbuWeb, thanking us for taking an interest in
what they do; in fact, most times they offer UbuWeb additional materials. We
happily acquiesce and tell them that UbuWeb is an unlimited resource with
unlimited space for them to fill. It is in this way that the site has grown to
encompass hundreds of artists, thousands of files, and several gigabytes of

At the time of its launch, UbuWeb garnered extraordinary attention and divided
communities along lines of access and rights to historical and contemporary
artists’ media. It was in this range of responses to UbuWeb that one could
discern the formations of new infrastructural positions on digital archives,
how they should be made available, and to whom. Yet again, these legal
positions were accompanied by a territorial dynamic, including the impact of
regional differences in cultural policy on UbuWeb. Thus, as artist Jason Simon
notes, there were significant differences between the ways in which European
and North American distributors related to UbuWeb. These differences, Simon
points out, were rooted in “medium-specific questions about infrastructure,”
which differ “from the more interpretive discussion that accompanied video's
wholesale migration into fine art exhibition venues.”50 European pre-recession
public money thus permitted nonprofit distributors to embrace infrastructures
such as UbuWeb, while American distributors were much more hesitant toward
UbuWeb’s free-access model. When recession hit Europe in the late 2000s,
however, the European links to UbuWeb’s infrastructures crumbled while “the
legacy American distributors … have been steadily adapting.”51 The territorial
modulations in UbuWeb’s infrastructural set-up testify not only to how shadow
libraries such as UbuWeb are inherently always linked up to larger political
events in complex ways, but also to latent ephemerality of the entire project.

Goldsmith has more than once asserted that UbuWeb’s insistence on
“independent” infrastructures also means a volatile existence: “… by the time
you read this, UbuWeb may be gone. Cobbled together, operating on no money and
an all-volunteer staff, UbuWeb has become the unlikely definitive source for
all things avant-garde on the internet. Never meant to be a permanent archive,
Ubu could vanish for any number of reasons: our ISP pulls the plug, our
university support dries up, or we simply grow tired of it.” Goldsmith’s
emphasis on the ephemerality of UbuWeb is a shared condition of most shadow
libraries, most of which exist only as ghostly reminders with nonfunctional
download links or simply as 404 pages, once they pull the plug. Rather than
lamenting this volatile existence, however, Goldsmith embraces it as an
infrapolitical stance. As Cornelia Solfrank points out, UbuWeb was—and still
is—as much an “archival critical practice that highlights the legal and social
ramifications of its self-created distribution and archiving system as it is
about the content hosted on the site.”52 UbuWeb is thus not so much about
authenticity as it is about archival defiance, appropriation, and self-
reflection. Such broader and deeper understandings of archival theory and
practice allow us to conceive of it as the kind of infrapolitics that,
according to James C. Scott, “provides much of the cultural and structural
underpinning of the more visible political attention on which our attention
has generally been focused.”53 The infrapolitics of UbuWeb is devoted to
hatching new forms of organization, creating new enclaves of freedom in the
midst of orthodox ways of life, and inventing new structures of production and
dissemination that reveal not only the content of their material but also
their marginalized infrastructural conditions and the constellation of social
forces that lead to their online circulation.54

The infrapolitics of UbuWeb is testament not only to avant-garde cultures, but
also to what Hito Steyerl in her _Defense of Poor Images_ refers to as the
“neoliberal radicalization of the culture as commodity” and the “restructuring
of global media industries.” 55 These materials “circulate partly in the void
left by state organizations” that find it too difficult to maintain digital
distribution infrastructures and the art world’s commercial ecosystems, which
offer the cultural materials hosted on UbuWeb only a liminal existence. Thus,
while UbuWeb on the one hand “reveals the decline and marginalization of
certain cultural materials” whose production were often “considered a task of
the state,”56 on the other hand it shows how intellectual content is
increasingly privatized, not only in corporate terms but also through
individuals, which in UbuWeb’s case is expressed in Kenneth Goldsmith, who
acts as the sole archival gatekeeper.57

## The Infrapolitics of Shadow Libraries

If the complexity of shadow libraries cannot be reduced to the contrastive
codes of “right” and “wrong” and glo

known as Memory of the World). 46. “Dušan Barok,” Memory of the World,
. 47. “Dušan Barok: Interview,”
_Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 48. Castells 1996. 49. Kenneth Goldsmith,”UbuWeb Wants
to Be Free” (last modified July 18, 2007),
ubuweb.html>. 50. Jacob King and
Jason Simon, “Before and After UbuWeb: A Conversation about Artists’ Film and
Video Distribution,” _Rhizome_ , February 20, 2014.
artists-film-and-vid>. 51. King and Simon 2014. 52. Sollfrank 2015. 53. Sco

uestion that resounds is: where should the paths lead if there is no
longer one truth, that is, if the labyrinth has no center? Some mass
digitization projects seem to revel in this new reality. As we have seen,
shadow libraries such as Monoskop and UbuWeb use the affordances of the
digital to create new cultural connections outside of the formal hierarchies
of cultural memory institutions. Yet, while embraced by some, predictably the
new distribution of authority generates anxiety in the cultural memo

rials and to enable them to make serendipitous discoveries and unexpected
connections between sources.”73 And indeed, this sentiment reverberates in all
mass digitization projects from Europeana and Google Books to smaller shadow
libraries such as UbuWeb and Monoskop. Some scholars even argue that
serendipity takes on new forms due to digitization.74

It seems only natural, then, that mass digitization projects, and their
actors, have actively adopted the discourse of serendipity, both as a selling

ces and Places on the Internet.” _Art Monthly Australia_ 91:15–18.
130. Goldsmith, Jack L., and Tim Wu. 2006. _Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World_. New York: Oxford University Press.
131. Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2007. “UbuWeb Wants to Be Free.” Last modified July 18, 2007. ubuweb.html>.
132. Golumbia, David. 2009. _The Cultural Logic of Computation_. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
133. Goriunova, Olga. 2012. _Art

ubuweb in WHW 2016

lmaster and
His Committees from Belgrade, Library Genesis and Aaaaaarg.org, Catalogue
of Free Books, (Digitized) Praxis, the digitized work of the Midnight Notes
Collective, and Textz.com, with special emphasis on activating the digital
repositories UbuWeb and Monoskop. Not only did the exhibition attempt to
enlist the gallery audience but, equally important, the project was testing
its own strength in building, articulating, announcing, and proposing, or
speculating on, a broader movement to oppose th


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