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Seth Price: Social Synthetic
Edited with text by Beatrix Ruf, Achim Hochdörfer. Coedited by Eric Banks. Contributions by Cory Arcangel, Ed Halter, Branden W. Joseph, John Kelsey, Michelle Kuo, Rachel Kushner, et al.
Social Synthetic is the first comprehensive publication on the varied oeuvre of Seth Price (born 1973).
How can art explore the self under technological pressure? In Price’s work, this is often expressed in terms of the “skins” of surface, packaging and wrapping: he has made photographic studies of a person’s skin obtained through the technologies Google employs for mapping, vacuum-formed plastic reliefs presenting a body part stranded in plastic and large wall sculptures depicting the negative space between two people engaged in intimate action, greatly enlarged from a tiny internet jpeg. Price’s work offers a fascinating engagement with our technologically mediated lives; these issues are tackled in this volume by a veritable who’s-who of artists and writers working on similar themes, including Cory Arcangel, Ed Halter, Branden Joseph, John Kelsey, Michelle Kuo, Rachel Kushner, Laura Owens and Ariana Reines.
ABOVE: "Fuck Seth Price: A Novel" (New York: Leopard Press, 2015; 2nd ed., 2016)
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FROM THE BOOKExcerpt from John Kelsey’s essay, “STEH PIRCE”
For the cover of the second edition of his book Fuck Seth Price: A Novel (2015), Seth Price rephotographed a Brioni ad for which the artist and author, looking a bit like a character in a Jean-Pierre Melville film, had agreed to model one of the company’s classic belted trench coats. Displacing his portrait from its usual place at the back of a book, Price fucks with the distinction between literature and fashion (the author as cover girl), troubling both of these systems while gaining access to fresh aesthetic territory. The artist has now become a moving image, performing a strange new mobility in response to the post-medium conditions of art, picking up speed by shedding substance and weight. Performing the artist, mannequin (or ‘novel’), and black-and-white author’s photo all at once, Price causes a kind of slippage on the cover of Fuck Seth Price, which is itself a slippery product, at once a novel and a speculative essay on the practice of contemporary art. In this displacement, Price himself becomes the sort of self-othering, self-troubling agent he describes in writings such as Teen Image (2009):
A human body subjected to frenzies of processing is an aggressive and disturbing alienation, but the threat is also fascinating; like a gif-compressed headshot, a Cubist portrait recalls the ancient ritual gesture of donning a mask or hood, and the ambivalent pleasures of othering oneself. Fashion also hunts this path.
If what Price names the teen image is like a perverse body that slips from the disciplinary grid of art-historical discourse in order to wander and fuck around in its own mutant time zone, online and in social media, the Brioni-packaged body of the artist—like the book itself—also oscillates between multiple, even contradictory possibilities without finally settling on any of them. When Brioni asked the artist (along with Karl Holmqvist, Tobias Madison, and other art-world males) to model for this campaign, he agreed on one condition: that the ad be placed not only in the usual fashion pages but also in those of the New Yorker magazine. At work on his “novel” at the time, Price was already angling for crossover potential, or a perverse slippage within his practice between industries, contexts, and value systems: these same New Yorker subscribers could easily become readers of Fuck Seth Price as well, and might even find a review of it here in these same, Brioni-branded pages.
Price’s use of the Brioni image as book “jacket” immediately recalls the many appearances of the bomber jacket in his oeuvre, where the abstracted garment takes on a timeless, iconic status, becoming almost logo-like in its repetition across various vacuum-formed surfaces. It also echoes Army Jacket (2002), a CD and LP that compiles miscellaneous music tracks recorded by Price from 2000 to 2002. These are retro male looks that evoke the discipline and order of a now-defunct symbolic regime while returning these as vague metrosexual options in the present. And while military style may still communicate anonymity and death, in Price’s work it does so mainly by unfolding a fast, flat space where aesthetics hooks up with the commodity form and its ruin. Here is where Warhol meets Bataille in a practice that often appropriates violent, excessive material while reformatting such unconsumable content as quasi-well-behaved works for galleries…
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