I was reading the London Review of Books online and came across a review by Gill Partington called Duchamp Is My Lawyer: The Polemics, Pragmatics and Poetics of UbuWeb. What caught my attention is that it was about a website called UbuWeb and it being a “clearinghouse for the avant-garde”.
Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a pirate shadow library consisting of hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts. By the letter of the law, the site is questionable; we openly violate copyright norms and almost never ask for permission. Most everything on the site is pilfered, ripped, and swiped from other places, then repostedAbout UbuWeb
The mainstream is not avant-garde
Avant-garde to me means something different, something artsy, maybe a bit risky or even risqué. Today’s mainstream web is the opposite of that in a lot of ways … we have come to expect consistent design with certain things in certain places like the “contact us” at the top right or in the bottom tray, the menu across the top, privacy policies, and easy-to-read fonts.
The first thing you notice about the UbuWeb is how stark it is. I had a hard time reading the text until I zoomed out to 150%.
Down a Rabbit Hole
I do find myself scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn every so often although I rarely do that on YouTube as I find the ads annoying. I pretty much never just get lost looking around the web.
This page was different. Even though I can’t say I understood everything I saw, read, or heard, there was something oddly comforting in it all. The videos I watched were quirky and old-time charming and the conceptual writing section (A Method for Sorting Cows, anyone?), was not the usual fare. I’ve highlighted a couple of interesting finds below.
Great Fences of Australia
This video shows Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor bowing on multiple fences across Australia and producing unique musical sounds. At the 17:30 minute mark, it sounds remarkably grunge rock. As the accompanying article says: “Many people look at fences and see not much; Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor look and see giant musical string instruments covering a continent.”
USA: Poetry, Frank O’Hara (1966) dir. Richard O. Moore
I found this video, which started with the poet Frank O’Hara reading from one of his poems, quite calming. I find modern documentaries have too much visuals and tricky sound effects going on. This one is actually the outtakes from the official documentary and shot in black an white.
Then again, with all the avant-garde-ness …
You can find UbuWeb on Twitter …
Have you found yourself falling down a rabbit hole on the web?
Was it enjoyable or just a time-waster? I’ll visit UbuWeb again and see what else I can discover.
Have you been searching for something a little different on the web that is more about discovery than a pre-determined path for you to follow? Read my latest blog on the avant-garde website UbuWeb and then start your arts adventure! https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rUn
The avant-garde is not dead on the web. Discover and discuss with me in my new blog post. https://wp.me/p3QRy0-rUn