From: Tony Conrad (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Jun 09 2008 - 06:17:52 PDT
Very well, David-------
......and thank you for the mention of my extensive events (albeit scarcely a full retrospective) at the Tate Modern this coming weekend.
However, your remark about work having been (until UBU) "tightly controlled" demands comment. In spite of national and other funding that has supported many film artists,
the works of the independent cinema are overwhelmingly the willful product of individual effort. These works belong in the "public sphere" only to the degree that their owners
wish so; this society has been constructed around an ethos of individual ownership, and this needs to be respected, even in so chaotic a cultural scene as independent media.
Nobody is saying that some guy's collection of beer cans SHOULD BE MADE ACCESSIBLE to the public at large. The independent films belong to the filmmakers, and it was with
this in mind that the coop system, from its founding moment, was encouraged to protect any financial interest that the work represented. Similarly, the "art world"
(institutionally speaking) is in effect a systemic recognition that art is a part (and product) of the market system, simply and wholly. We could debate the soundness of this
structural condition, but that is the foundation of the society that has produced the modern western world.
For example, take inheritance. Some people may complain about how heirs control works that should be controlled by cultural interests. There has been a debate about Jack
Smith's legacy, for instance. This debate is misplaced; if the inheritance system is to be looked at critically, the gaze should turn first to wealth, and the system of family
control of the huge assets that rule our social order, and not to the meager leavings of dead artists.
It may have been wise to have circulated more widely the argument that intellectual property itself is not the chief source of return for an artist (as the music industry has
finally begun to recognize!), and that making your work widely available is a strategy leading to greater return than rentals on demand. On the other hand, work that has
circulated within the "art world" has been supported by the promotional machinery of that scene, making high rental fees pay off in increased desirability (at least in the short
run). The "art world" has also generated a bi-level distribution system, in which informal exchanges and promotional releases circulate freely, while the "actual" work remains
This informal circulation of "illicit" copies has been the only access, for many, to work that has been chiefly the product of what Diana Crane considers an "urban culture." If
you want to see these works, you need to go to New York, or London.... UBU, as an expression of the new construction of a widely disseminated online "urban culture" is
premature -- or as they used to say in socialist Eastern Europe, "comes too early." It forces issues onto the cultural agenda that should be approached far more broadly, in
terms of property ownership at large.
In proposing Oasis, a research archive for general access that is to be much along the lines of UBU, Woody Vasulka pointed out that floating work among multiple institutional
databases makes it in effect indestructible, and thus positions it within the larger circle of the extended canon (unlike other important work -- such as my brother Dan's
singular and remarkable film "Circles," which exists in one never-screened print at the NY Filmmakers' Cooperative). ZKM, in Karlsruhe, has had difficulty effectuating Woody's
plan, largely because of their problems in obtaining clear and explicit permission from the makers (to digitize, and in what form, and to circulate, but how widely, etc. etc.).
UBU overwhelms this proper proprietary obstacle by ignoring it. Is that the way to go? For works that are in the "public domain" yes; for personal property, and to squeeze the
issue with the circulation to "the mob" of a public listing of the artists who have any reservations about being reaped in this way, no.
On Mon Jun 9 6:11 , David Berridge <email suppressed> sent:
>UBUWEB is a remarkable, rich resource. It's the one place that offers the possibility of a (free) comprehensive experience of a range of experimental arts - especially for those
without access to college libraries, archive or museum collections. To dismiss it is to ignore the wonderful gift it represents, and its ripost to decades when access to this work
was tightly controlled.
>Three points in the context of this list:
>I first encountered ubuweb as an archive of visual, oral and written poetry. The issues with copyright really came to the fore with the decision to present large amounts of
film work. I wonder what this says about the different attitudes amongst poets and film makers to their work and how it is made available. A look at the poetry selections
reveals that key practitioners - such as Jerome Rothenberg - have also become involved as section editors. Why are film makers not doing this? Perhaps different artistic
disciplines have failed understand each others ways of working.
>Secondly, the challenge of ubuweb is whether any other form of organisation could create something even remotely as comprehensive. The evidence at the moment suggests
not. Does the economy of this kind of work mean ubuweb's "grab and post" attitude is the only way such a comprehensive archive could come into existence?
>Finally, I think it is wrong to overly focus Ubuweb on Kenny Goldsmith. Even a cursory look reveals it as a remarkable collection of contemporary practictioners, engaged both
with their own work and in dialogue with that of their predecessors. Again, at a time of many 1960's retrospectives - such as Tony Conrad's at Tate Modern this coming
weekend - the challenge would seem to be whether there is another project ( organised along different lines) with cross-generational conversations as practical, vibrant and
>Ian White's recent book (as editor) entitled KINOMUSEUM perhaps offers some ways forward here, with several contributors (including Stuart Comer, one of the curators
of Tate's Conrad season) suggesting the museum as offering a place to encounter film prints of work originally encountered via you tube.
>For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.