Online Countercultural Resources for Information-Hungry Young Adults

27 Aug

Guest blogger Clyde Beard brings YA Library UK a peek at the avant-garde art and obscure information available online. These countercultural resources will help young people you work with access new and fascinating works.

Many of us will fondly remember the thrill of discovering rare media as young adults. Some of us still detect influence of this thirst for self-directed discovery on our characters. The act of tracking down obscure art that is beautiful, inspirational and shocking can be deeply rewarding and a catalyst for the enhancement of inquisitive minds.

In the not-too-distant past, young adults with obscure tastes struggled to find the works that truly intrigued them. In smaller towns there would only be a handful of kids (at most) who delighted in seeking out weird art and obscure media. In many cases these young people pooled resources and knowledge was locally shared. Now widespread broadband internet access closes the distance between these information-hungry outsiders. Access to the media they desire has increased thanks to several specialised websites.

The media collections presented below are skillfully curated and maintained to a very high standard. They offer free access to a range of rare materials unrivalled by any public library. These online archives provide an overwhelming collection of resources for self-directed crash courses in avant-garde, experimental, and outsider art. A young adult who spends just a couple of hours on any of these websites will find themselves becoming smarter, more cultured and weirder than the average person. These sites also contain hidden creative gems deserving of sustained critical attention and may function as temporary antidotes to the continual distractions of social media.

Ubuweb is an extensive independent archive of avant-garde art in a wide variety of mediums that is an invaluable resource for young freethinkers, artists, poets and intellectual outsiders. Ubuweb provides access to obscure and startling books, sound recordings and videos that will remain absent from any curriculum.

Ubuweb Recommendations:

Avant Garde All the Time is a podcast featuring selections from Ubuweb’s vast collection, hosted by the Poetry Foundation. There is no better introduction to the history of sound art.

Watch videos of several bizarre and terrifying presentations by Survival Research Laboratories featuring the anarchic interactions of machines, robots and explosives and have been described as “the most dangerous shows on Earth”.

Hear live performances by Patti Smith.

Enjoy William S. Burroughs reading his work and captured on film.

Watch Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y by Johan Grimonprez, “the acclaimed hijacking documentary that eerily foreshadowed 9-11”.

Listen to Dial-A-Poem Poets, recordings curated by John Giorno.

The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is an attempt to build an online library suited to the needs of the digital world. High standards of digital librarianship combine with vast technological resources to form an unrivalled resource. is most famous for The Wayback Machine, a service allowing you to view historical versions of almost any website. The Internet Archive also offers a huge selection of copyright-free ebooks, music and films.

Internet Archive Recommendations:

Watch Fritz Lang’s M and Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Project Gutenberg
Provides over 33000 public domain ebooks.

Free audiobooks of public domain works read by volunteers.

The website of NYC-based independent radio station WFMU provides streams and podcast of its free form content. The station’s blog also offers weird and rare sound files.

WFMU hosts the 365 Days Project, presenting obscure and peculiar sound files each day in 2003 and 2007. WFMU is also involved with the Free Music Archive, a great source of free outsider music.

For those interested in the systems and technologies at work in the world around us, audio of the talks from July’s The Next Hope conference will be fascinating. Topics covered include computer hacking, circuitbending, cooking, graphic novels, and the phone system.

Many universities around the world (including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and UC Berkeley) now provide entire courses for free on iTunes. In addition to recordings of lectures, many institutions offer videos, schedules and course notes.


Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: