PostedNovember 18, 2004
According to UbuWeb founder and publisher Kenneth Goldsmith, statistics indicate that visitors to the site "are as likely to download a Renaissance visual poem as they would listen to the MP3 of Louis Farrakhan singing ‘Is She Is, Or Is She Ain’t?’" Begun in 1996, UbuWeb hosts enough audio material, text, and graphic work to keep a reader occupied for months. While the site was created to highlight and archive visual and concrete poetry, increased bandwith and an influx of materials have broadened the site’s scope. As Goldsmith told Poets.org, "We've moved toward becoming a clearinghouse for the avant-garde."
To that end, the site features hundreds of downloadable out-of-print books and articles, as well as sound files of readings, lectures, and interviews. Not just poetry-focused, UbuWeb offers peripheral and foundational documents from literary theory to film. The writings of Situationist Guy DeBord can be found a few links away from an audio interview between French film critic Serge Daney and filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, originally aired in the early 1980s on Radio France. Goldsmith is pleased to also note that the site will soon add a video section, "featuring the work of classic avant-gardists: [Stan] Brakhage, [Kenneth] Anger, [Luis] Bunuel, Fluxus, etc. Also coming is the fourteen-hour video series of Robert Ashley's Music with Roots in the Aether."
Given that the contents of the site are available to view and download at no cost, it would seem Goldsmith would be in a constant scramble to scrape together funding. Not so, according to the site’s mission statement, which notes that "UbuWeb has no need for money, funding or backers. Our web space is provided for a pittance by an ISP 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." This independence allows for, as the statement continues, freedom "from academic bureaucracy and its attendant infighting, which often results in compromised solutions; we have no one to please but ourselves."
In addition to being arguably the most comprehensive online repository of experimental and avant-garde documents, UbuWeb’s Internet presence insures that these works will never go "out of print." The site’s curators are committed to building the archive for the foreseeable future. As Goldsmith says, the site "is a never-ending work in progress: many hands are continually building it on many platforms."