On Wednesday, November 3 we were happy to host a talk in conjunction with the main fall exhibition, Ear to the Page. Organized by James Hoff and Alan Licht, Ear to the Page explores the interaction between sound and book art. The exhibition is on view at the Center for Book Arts through December 4, 2010. The curators invited Allen Ruppersberg and Kenneth Goldsmith to speak at the Center about their work. Artist Angie Waller, one of the Center’s current Artists in Residence, was in the audience and happily sent us her report on the evening’s discussion:
In the context of the Center for Book Art’s Vandercook presses and drawers of lead type surrounding us, it was enlightening to explore the act of collecting the obscure and outmoded with tonight’s presenters.
Before this evening’s talk, I was not aware that Allen Ruppersberg’s LP collection had formed the foundation of the Spoken Word archive on Ubuweb.com. Kenneth Goldsmith, Ubuweb’s founder, described how Allen would lend him obscure LPs that he would in turn copy for his own archive. An example of the collection – Learning to Count by Jim Roche represents an artist with whom no one at tonight’s talk was familiar, yet only 30 years ago was performing at the Whitney Museum and Venice Biennale. Jim Roche’s ramblings, inspired by “Southern crackers” and Pentecostal preachers, are vile. Now you can download them from Ubuweb (http://www.ubu.com/sound/roche.html) and they will be filed in your iTunes catalog between Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake. Be careful if you turn on shuffle in the company of others!
Goldsmith sang from his book Head Citations (2002). The contents are his subjective selections from the web site kissthisguy.com (the archive of misheard lyrics). Humorous indeed, it also reinforced the question of which objects the collector deems worthy of collecting.
Ruppersberg does not use digital tools to make his work, but his recent installation is distributed in a way inherent to digital culture. Where Ubuweb has pages of pdfs available for download, Ruppersberg’s The Never Ending Book Part 2 presented at Greene Naftali Gallery last spring dispersed its pages as Xeroxed copies loosely stacked in cardboard boxes for visitors to take home and assemble in their own “book.” In both examples, the artifact is stripped of its context and re-catalogued by a new collector.
Like a physical archive, there is not a librarian for Ubuweb. When asked if he would consider adding a framework to Ubuweb that would assist users in navigating its vast resources, Goldsmith’s reply was absolutely not. He doesn’t want to be a “tour guide” or have “community.” I agree these are terms that web culture uses to a nauseating degree.
Perhaps the lack of textures that we associate with the archive acquired through junk shops and garage sales can be supplanted in the digital realm through massiveness and versatility. Where we are conditioned to look for the context of objects in libraries and museums using catalogs or didactic wall texts; the intrigue of the physical and digital archive are the subjectivity of the collector and the open-endedness left for the viewer.