UbuWeb, the archive and the gallery

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

As a seemingly limitless and comprehensive resource, UbuWeb (http://www.ubu.com) has put together a map of the past hundred or so years of ‘experimental’ writing, film, video, and sound art. It resembles the archive in its breadth and depth, in its relentless collecting, in its inherent totalizing tendencies. My argument is that UbuWeb, while not an ‘archive’ per se, does have a cataloging logic, though it is not apparent, and that its specific logic is based on the commodification of the artwork and the effects of that commodification on its exhibition. To understand that logic, I want to situate UbuWeb at the latest point in a series of discontinuous institutions and discourses that have all taken the ‘artwork’ as their object. By understanding the how artwork’s relationship to power is mediated by a historically developing series of institutions (royal art collection, national patrimony, public museum, commodified gallery), we can understand how these institutions function based on a legitimating logic that is shifting from sovereign power to disciplinary power to securitizing power and how each institution deploys a certain concept of the artwork specific to each regime of power. By contextualizing UbuWeb in the genealogy of the exhibition of artworks, it will be possible to reconceptualize the ‘experimental’ and ‘avant-garde’ works of the last century (those represented by UbuWeb) beyond the inside/outside binary that justifies the current discourse surrounding them. The archive, while undergoing many crises not unrelated to the conceptualist crises of the postmodern gallery, can provide an interesting alternative to the aesthetic-driven, galley-like organization principle that keeps UbuWeb from making good on its promise to be a space for utopian politics free from market constraints.

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Audun Andreassen