“…permissions, paperwork, and other sordid details.”


I was happy to see that UbuWeb, perhaps the single most awe-inspiring repository of avant-garde artifacts anywhere on the web, has relaunched after a summer of rebuilding. I’m looking forward to diving into some of the Glenn Gould radio broadcasts that have just been posted.

An interesting aside relating to IP and Ubu’s attempts to host film clips:

We relaunched UbuWeb on September 14th with over 150 avant-garde films in digital formats for your viewing pleasure. Within hours, we received several hostile letters from representatives of filmmakers — all lawyers and business people, not the artists themselves — issuing cease and desist letters and threatening lawsuits. Every time, it seemed, we opened our inbox yet another appeared. We had little choice but to obey and as a result, we have iced the section — for the time being.

We never intended UbuWeb to take any money out of the pockets of these artists; rather we feel that simple exposure to even the most degraded, corrupted, miniscule, and compressed .avi would increase interest and exposure to avant-garde film, a field whose audience has long been in decline. Our idea was to make accessible the generally inaccessible, with the hopes that should you desire to see the film in all its glory, you will make your way to the nearest theatre showing them (although there are very few) or find better copies on DVD. UbuWeb was never meant to be a substitute for the experience of viewing a film; it was meant as a teaser, an appetizer, until you can get to the real thing.

However, the real thing isn’t very easy to get to. Most of us don’t live anywhere near theatres that show this kind of fare and very few of us can afford the several hundred dollar rental fees, not to mention the cumbersome equipment, to show these films. Thankfully, there is the internet which allows you to get a whiff of these films regardless of your geographical location.

Obviously, certain members of the film community did not share our sentiments. They would rather keep these jewels to themselves or a select few huddled in dark rooms.

One complaint read “Kenneth Anger is penniless and living in a shack, yet you are making his films available for free and taking money away from him?” To which we reply: if the current system of avant-garde film distribution was working so well, why would the great artist Kenneth Anger be living in a shack and not a mansion? Is this really a system to hold on to? Obviously, something isn’t working. If they really cared about Kenneth Anger, they would hope to expose his arguably-forgotten work to a non-geographically-specific digital savvy audience via the radical distributive possibilities of internet. Guaranteed, Mr. Anger would see his royalties soar as a result.

(Anger penniless? Perhaps Hollywood Babylon III really will happen.)

I’ve always been a bit surprised by Ubu’s continued existence given its overt defiance of copyright law. When I worked at TechBC, courses were forbidden to even link to this site lest we be indicted as complicit conspirators…

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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1 Response to “…permissions, paperwork, and other sordid details.”

  1. Scott Leslie says:

    Awesome! I’ve kept it open in one of my tabs in firefox ever since you pointed to it, and now my favourite way to spend time during conference calls (other than listening, of course) is reading something freaky from ubuweb. Truly a trove.

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