Documents 21. Kenneth Goldsmith
An Archive Can Be Anywhere
The Documents programme explores the relationships between art and publishing, and other subjects that include the effects of archive on narratives of art history, the artist’s book and publishing as an artistic practice. This latest edition welcomes poet, artist and editor Kenneth Goldsmith (New York, 1961), an archive theorist, a poet in the sphere of “uncreative writing” — a concept based on plagiarism, appropriation and the non-subjective use of literature — and the creator of the digital platform UbuWeb, a paradigm of the immaterial museum of modern and contemporary art. On this occasion, Goldsmith will give a lecture on the history and challenges of this platform, a workshop on radical archive practices in the Museo Reina Sofía, and a second workshop on “uncreative writing” in the Centro de Arte José Guerrero and La Madraza.
In 2020, the use of digital escalated to affect the culture and museum spheres equally. This acceleration paradoxically led the internet towards a new feudalism in which information and its circulation was concentrated into towering monopolies, with the control and surveillance of citizens becoming increasingly more invasive and questionable. In what way can the future museum hybrid, between the digital and the real, escape this neo-feudalism of networks? Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a repository-archive of the avant-garde art which belongs to the internet’s utopian archaeology, an autonomous, decentralised and illuminating place. Yet after three decades of work it has managed to resist both the logics of the art system — the aura of the artwork, the authorship of genius — and a new restrictive phase online. How can we learn from UbuWeb to think about a future museum and its archive practices, not from property and control but from the digital commons? This is the question that motivates and shapes this programme.
Kenneth Goldsmith is an artist who teaches writing at the University of Pennsylvania and is a senior editor of PennSound, an online poetry archive. The founder of avant-garde art archive UbuWeb, Goldsmith was also the editor and host of the weekly radio show Radio Boredcast on WFMU. His books include New York, Capital of the 20th Century (Verso Books, 2015), Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age (Columbia University Press, 2011), Wasting Time on the Internet (Harper Collins, 2016) and Duchamp Is My Lawyer. The Polemics, Pragmatics, and Poetics of UbuWeb (Columbia University Press, 2020). In the field of uncreative writing, he has published the trilogy The Weather (2005), Traffic (2007) and Sports (2008), books which, respectively, entail the written transcription of weather reports, traffic flows and a baseball game (all published by Make Now Press). He has also edited I'll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews (Da Capo Press, 2004) and, with Craig Dworkin, Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Northwestern University Press, 2011). In 2012, he was invited to participate at Documenta 13 in Kassel.
In this lecture, Goldsmith tells the story of UbuWeb and the reasons behind its creation, as well as explaining how artworks are archived, received and distributed online. He also describes how the platform avoids copyright and the ways in which it challenges traditional configurations and orthodox histories of the avant-garde. Moreover, he touches on the growth of other “libraries in the shadows” that run in parallel to UbuWeb and spotlights contemporary artists who have incorporated the aims, aesthetics and spirit of the platform..
Language: English, with simultaneous interpreting
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
Archiving is a way to organise and create structure through documents. At the same time, the act of archiving in its most rational and empirical side resembles algorithm logics and artificial intelligence, according to which information is reduced to like for like and standardised according to taste. In what way can a contemporary art archive participate from the nomadic and sprawling sense of contemporary artistic practices? How can an archive be made without algorithm logic?
Nouvel Building, Study Centre
It seems obvious that the idea of creativity, appreciated for so long, is under attack, eroded by the exchange of archives, media culture, widespread sampling and digital replication. How does writing respond to this new environment? This workshop tackles these challenges, employing strategies of appropriation, replica, plagiarism, piracy, sampling and looting as compositional methods. Across two sessions, the rich history of falsifications, fraud, deceit, vicissitudes and impersonations spanning the arts are traced, with the stress placed on how they use language. There is also an analysis of how modern notions of chance, procedure, repetition and aesthetics of boredom fit into popular culture to usurp conventional concepts of time, place and identity, and all expressed from linguistics.
Sala Mariana Pineda, Palacio de La Madraza (calle Oficios 14, Granada)