On October 11, 2020, the François Morellet Prize will be awarded to Kenneth Goldsmith for his book Duchamp is my lawyer. The polemics, pragmatics, and poetics of Ubuweb, published in 2020 by Columbia University Press.
In 1996, when the web was relatively new, Kenneth Goldsmith created the UbuWeb platform in order to publish hard-to-find works of concrete poetry. Beginning as a sharing site for works from a relatively obscure literary movement, UbuWeb has become an essential archive of avant-garde and experimental literature, film, and music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Thanks to the site, people around the world now have access to canonical works by artists such as Kara Walker, Yoko Ono, Pauline Oliveros, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Duchamp, Cecil Taylor, Glenn Ligon, William Burroughs, and Jean-Luc Godard.
In Duchamp is my lawyer, Goldsmith revisits the history of UbuWeb, explaining the motivations behind its creation and how works are archived, consumed, and distributed online. Drawing on his own experiences and interviews with experts, Goldsmith describes how the site navigates copyright issues and how it challenges the history of the avant-garde. The book also describes the growth of other « shadow libraries » and discusses artists whose work aligns with the goals, aesthetics, and ethics of UbuWeb. It concludes by contrasting UbuWeb’s commitment to the free culture movement with the current gatekeepers of algorithmic culture, such as Netflix, Amazon and Spotify.
Kenneth Goldsmith is, by turns, MoMA’s first poetry laureate, founder and editor of UbuWeb, professor of Uncreative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, and host of New York radio station WFMU. He advocates for writing that is not plagiarized, copied, or retranscribed. Considered a major figure in contemporary creation, he is also a paradox, when he is received at the White House as an author, while he has publicly admitted to stealing the words of others, and advocates plagiarism.
Following the model of Conceptual Art, Kenneth Goldsmith develops his texts according to new forms of installation and dissemination, reflecting on the new possibilities offered by the digital world and the Internet.
He is notably the author of Theory (2015) and Writing without Writing: Language in the Digital Age (2018).
In 2020, the region of Pays de la Loire joins the National Book and Wine Days and the Château de Montsoreau – Museum of Contemporary Art to present the François Morellet Prize.