Monday, February 15, 2016

Fuck Seth Price, A Novel


I borrowed this book from a friend after another friend had been saying that I should read it for some time. I read it in two sittings (it is quite short) and had a range or reactions to it. Fuck Seth Price, A Novel (Leopard, NY 2015) is not a novel (which it is ironically aware of this in its subtitle) but I’m not sure exactly what it is. Is it an art project, a ruse, a drug fueled mental purge? I’m not qualified to say but it is a deposition turned internal monologue of what we can assume is extracted from Seth Price’s brain.

Seth Price is an artist. He is represented and shows at the crème de la crème of the art world. It is because of this that this book, and the tone, and contents that it posses has weight. The book is essentially about the ‘art world’ and the machinations, construct and limitations of what that all means. It is from the perspective of a male who at various times seems to be in real time, walking through a hotel, possibly attacking someone, these moments are rare and slide in and out of the internal exposé on the thoughts about what it means to be an artist today.

At first, I was very excited while reading it. It felt as if Price had looked in my brain, this blog, my inner deepest thoughts and typed it out neatly, efficiently, and authoritatively on the page. My eyes got big and excited when reading such a clear and passionless voice about the basically shit situation that anyone who loves art/does art, has to be a part of and negotiate if they want to be in the art world. His laying out succinctly of how the contemporary state of art has gotten to where it has and how those involved are doing so through the motivations of one of the following: 1. Freedom 2. Craft 3. Money  4. Scene felt like some sort of coup to the illusions of the art world system.

Reading this book makes one (at least someone like me who feels like a broken record on these matters) feel justified and relieved that someone gets it as well as vindicated that they are not a crazy person banging their head against the wall. But then I kept reading. Soaking it up, feeling as if I was reading back my own writing at times. And then the book was done and I felt a bit dazed. I knew that I would have to give it some time to settle in, for it to digest. It’s like all things that have complications in their consumption; one has to see how they feel when it goes fully through the system.

The next day I felt a sudden sense of anger followed by annoyance. I am not sure why I was feeling this way. I agreed and was delighted to read Price’s book at first as it hit all those ‘Yes! Same!’ bells and it was written mostly well. Then why was I now feeling this way I wondered. I let it go and decided to wait longer.

Now it has been a week since I have read it and to be honest I have nearly forgotten it. Obviously not fully as I made it a point to reflect on it today, but forgotten it in the bigger way. I think this is because I am not very young anymore and anti-/critical/contrary things do not move or radicalize me as they used to. Also, I think because of who Seth Price is and also his acknowledgement page at the very end.

In this acknowledgement section, when the author thanks those that helped him in the creation of the book, there are familiar names. They are people I know, others that I don’t but they are all heavy in the art world. This is honest because Price is heavy in the art world and that is perhaps why it annoyed me and then nullified the book for me in some ways. As before stated, because Price is “Seth Price” it enables him to write this and to receive so many kudos about it. He is this type of artist, he works in this modus operandi, but that makes all that is in this book seem so inverted. The fact that someone at his level did such a thing is all fine and good in some ways but it doesn’t change anything at all. I know that wasn’t his purpose. He seems to know this as clearly as anyone else, hence his title, but still, it feels like a book for only those that are already so a part of the art world. Only the successful, involved, validated participants of the art world have any power to unravel it and this book is a FUBU (for us by us) in cultural discourse.

I guess the biggest problem that I have with this book is that it is a bit lazy. It is too short, too vague, too indulgent. I think that is Price’s attitude about things though. The ability and the permission to do things half ass, or to stop whenever is something he clearly relishes in. I can respect the punk attitude of that but it feels safe and it feels veiled. I wish that it was five times longer. I wish that the character (which I don’t think is actually Price at all) got weirder. I wish that this book would not only matter to such a small audience, which already gets it, and can snigger or dismantle it for useless theoretics and moments of feeling outsider. I wish a lot of things but I would say read it. It will take only a few hours and maybe it will change a few people out there, possibly, maybe, probably not but at least it’s trying to do something even though I’m not sure what that is.