Seth Price (b. 1973)
Tale of the Skull (2000)
N.Y. Sorrow (2001)
Through paintings, sculpture, video, and media work, Seth Price underlines the production strategies, dissemination modes, and valuation patterns that art most typically occupies or assumes. His appropriative work, which often comprises what he terms the “redistribution” of pirated materials such as music and published texts and the circulation of archival footage and data culled from the internet, disrupts the operations of commodity culture and the information systems on which its ingratiating fluidity depends. While his practice evades rhetorical summation and aesthetic synthesis alike—effectively becoming mimetic of its profligate situation—the artist’s interest in the mobility of form suggests a common denominator. The music compilations that make up the series Title Variable (2001– ), for instance, reference episodes in recent music history, including video-game soundtracks and hip-hop. Released in various formats, Price’s mixes have been delivered online and through bookstores and museums, accompanied by the artist’s essays on each music form.
Ranging from vacuum-formed bomber jackets to 16-millimeter projections of rolling waves, Price’s employ of interchangeable and nonspecific supports focuses on seeking out operations, allowing his work to avoid ossification as fixed images. One tactic involves collaborative performances with the art and publishing collective Continuous Project, formed in 2003 with Bettina Funcke, Wade Guyton, and Joseph Logan. That year they made and distributed photocopied facsimiles of the first issues of the art magazines Avalanche (Fall 1970), for Continuous Project #1, and Eau de Cologne (1985), for Continuous Project #4. The collective also stages multihour readings of interviews and panel discussions—sometimes institutionally repressed— between artists, curators, critics, and dealers, inviting the audience’s participation. As much historical reenactment as instantiation of presentist social space, Continuous Project’s lectures draw attention to ways in which the content of such events are inextricable from their design.
Format likewise proves a crux in Price’s recent two-dimensional, wall-bound works including Gold Keys (2007): disembodied hands passing keys to each other float on golden-metallic grounds, generic icons culled from real estate and other advertisements as well as other media sources, yet given a treatment more typical of archival photographs. Untitled (2007) recycles digital images illustrating various human interactions. In this portrayal of one person feeding another, Price has excised the figures themselves, leaving only the negative interval between them; other works in the series depict a couple kissing and a man with his hand on a boy’s shoulder. Perhaps plucked from a commercial or shareholder prospectus, each vignette denies specificity even as it is fetishized through its transmutation into luxurious materials at a grand scale, leaving the narrative ambiguously open—and ready to be consumed, repurposed, and discarded anew. SUZANNE HUDSON
Seth Price in UbuWeb Sound