"The Bride Stripped Bare" by Kenneth Goldsmith

Ubu.com:
At the beginning of his article, Goldsmith introduces his website, UbuWeb and the role it plays in “nude-ing” media. UbuWeb is a website that hosts different types of experimental poetry, and it was launched in 1996. UbuWeb, as he describes it, is the place where people can find different kinds of concrete poetry, sound poetry, etc. without buying them. He says that UbuWeb is “the creation of a distribution center for out-of-print, hard-to-find, small-run, obscure materials, available at no cost and from any point on the globe” (49).

Nude Media:
Goldsmith says that the sound section in the UbuWeb is the most popular section of this website. According to Goldsmith, there are many people who are interested in the avant-garde sound works, and they use them as new source materials for new compositions, remix, or the process of stitching several tracks together that’s come to be known as “bootlegging” or “smushing” (52). Goldsmith calls this process of using the existing materials on UbuWeb and using them as new source materials “nude media.” He explains what he means by this term and says, “it is that once an MP3 file is downloaded from the context of a site such as UbuWeb, it’s free or naked, stripped bare of the normative external signifiers that tend to give as much meaning to an artwork as the contents of the artwork itself” (52). He argues that once the sound file is downloaded from its context, it becomes free, nude, not clothed and “thrown into peer-to-peer distribution systems” (52).

Nude Text:
Goldsmith takes his theory of “nude media” and applies it on one text with three different versions/forms. It is an article about Tony Curtis that was published on October, 6, 2002. The three different versions of this text are: the printed article, the online article, and the same article in an email-format. He argues that the printed version of this article is “fully clothed in the conventions of the New York Times. Everything from typeface to the pull quote to the photo layout bespeaks the authority of the paper record” (52). However, the same article on the New York Times website is a different version in the sense that it lost most of its features and what gave it its “rock steadiness” in the traditional print version. For example, the font is different, the picture of Tony Curtis is smaller and set on the side of the page and finally, the place in which the interview happened is capitalized "WASHINGTON." Moreover, on the website version of the article, if a reader clicks on “email this article” button, the text loses all of its features/clothes and becomes just a text. Goldsmith argues that this is the same thing that happens to a text when you copy it and paste it into Microsoft Word; he says that the “file becomes detached from any authority, completely naked” (55).

Disinformation & Recontextualization:
Goldsmith says that, although believers in the inherent stability of media might argue that this phenomenon leads to little more than a tangle of disinformation, recontextualization has been the basis for innumerable radical works of art. On his website, UbuWeb, he says that they encode the sounds files with ID3 tags, like identifying the artist and the title of the cut. However, they do not encode provenance information, such as “Courtesy of UbuWeb.” He says that “when an MP3 leaves our site it is, in essence, returned to the common space of the Web: it leaves nude” (58).

Bootlegging Phenomenon:
Goldsmith moves to discuss the journey of some media after leaving their context nude. He argues that the widespread use of the internet has created what he calls “antiauthoritarian gesture” (59). He says that once these items are purchased, they can be recruited as nude media via peer-to-peer file sharing. These nude media become vulnerable to manipulation, remixing, and mangling on a mass scale. Goldsmith says, “they are ever-changing-works-in-progress operating in the most widespread gift economy yet known” (59). After discussing the on-going editing process, he asks many questions about authoritative gestures such as, if artifacts are always in flux, when is a historical work determined to be “finished”? Then he answers that it is too early to answer such a question because we are a bridge generation.

Bootlegging of Text:
Goldsmith, again, moves and applies what he thinks of sound files to texts. He argues that, on the text level, we have not seen anything close to the bootlegging phenomenon. However, he thinks that “the musical examples might hold clues as to how such systems might operate in the future” (61). He says that John Cage, an early advocate of intermedia and nude media, predicted as early as 1986 the idea of unstable electronic text as potential source texts for remixing. He argues that the bootlegging and remixing is applicable to texts. He says, “While vast libraries containing intact text are restored online, few offer textual remixes” (61).


Commentary:

Goldsmith, in his article, basically discusses the term he invented, “nude media”. He thanks the internet for its file sharing and peer-to-peer sharing. He suggests that the internet has created new ways for people to reach artifacts and also created new ways of consuming them. This idea of naked media makes it so the artifacts never reach a final/finished state. He argues that when DJs use original songs as new source materials to manipulate them, they are experiencing nude-ing media. This places the artifacts in ever-changing/developing process. However, he argues that nude-ing media is only applicable to sound media, not texts. And although most texts and sound files have become both E-forms and vulnerable to being nude, having text remix is still out of reach.

For Discussion:

  1. Sound files and E-text are both electronic forms; however, these two types of media are potentially different. Do you think that text-remix can be done. If yes, for what purpose?
  2. Goldsmith’s idea of “nude media” strips artifacts from their copyrights. To what extent do you think that the use of internet and file sharing would change the notion of copyright?
  3. Electronic forms, such as Adobe, keep changing as technology develops. Do you think that nude media is the digital “elixir of life” that would keep these artifacts alive as the forms change?
  4. Kenneth Goldsmith, in his piece Soliloquy, moved his utterance from its original context, dialog, to another context, narrative. Do you think that he is creating nude media in this piece?


Youtube: Every Thing is A Remix
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAmmtCJxJJY&feature=g-hist&context=G2df6a57AHT4Jx7AAJAA