Seth Price’s Folk­lore U.S.

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Ben Fama

Koenig Books, Lon­don, 2014

Seth Price’s Folk­lore U.S. doc­u­ments a se­ries of in­stal­la­tions and ex­hi­bi­tions stem­ming from his dOC­U­MENTA (13) con­tri­bu­tion, which in­cluded the Folk­lore U.S. SS12 fash­ion show (with col­lab­o­ra­tor Tim Hamil­ton), an ex­hi­bi­tion at Haupt­bahn­hof, and a se­ries of shop win­dows and gar­ments for sale at Sin­nL­ef­fers. The book is bound with a thick iri­des­cent linen pa­per that wa­vers be­tween green and pur­ple as you tilt it to and fro. The first text is an in­ter­view with Seth Price, and the other two are with Ben Mor­gan- Cleve­land, who worked with Price on sev­eral of his shows: two in New York and one in Cologne.

The in­ter­views tell of the tedium of work­ing in de­signer fash­ion and the ob­sta­cles to cor­rectly gather and pro­duce a sin­gle piece, re­ferred to as “soft sculp­ture” (Mor­gan- Cleve­land re­jects the phrase). Pic­tures run along­side the in­ter­view tran­scrip­tions, and the “con­tain­ers” (as Price’s pieces are called) are coded both fa­mil­iar and un­canny, ap­proach­able and scram­bled, prod­ucts with mixed sig­ni­fiers that might be ugly, or not. For in­stance, on a piece called Bag with Dec­o­ra­tive Pat­tern and Fed­eral El­e­ment, the Fed­eral De­posit In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion—printed lin­ers rat­tle nerves (it is tax sea­son, af­ter all), but the other printed lin­ers sug­gest a cul­ture of DIY- pat­tern­mak­ing and lo-fi nos­tal­gia. Price unites ma­te­rial and con­cept as high­erthan- high ac­ces­sories that could be used, but won’t be.

Scraps them­selves are the con­tent of sev­eral im­ages. Cot­ton and flan­nel fab­ric swatches in plaid and hound­stooth ap­pear ly­ing over an im­age of a suited man drink­ing a mar­tini on a sofa which is cited as ref­er­ence ma­te­rial. These pat­terns don’t ap­pear in any of the works, and are only ref­er­enced in­so­far as Price flips these tiled pat­terns away from the Repub­li­can, “Univer­sity Club” look into some­thing less fa­mil­iar. One in­te­rior pat­tern, on a piece called Study for Uniden­ti­fied Mouse, is an all- over pat­tern ofMickey Mouse’s head, the fa­mil­iar Dis­ney trade­mark, but in evil- in­ten­tioned sil­hou­ette.

“Plant­ing the seed of un­cer­tainty,” is one of Price’s tricks, we learn, when he asks the rhetor­i­cal ques­tion “You know how to be cool?” This phrase ap­pears in the last sec­tion of the book, a piece of orig­i­nal writ­ing called “Folk­lore U.S.” that serves as coun­ter­part and ex­ten­sion to the short con­tem­pla­tions on art and cul­ture and their ap­pa­ra­tuses in his pre­vi­ous col­lec­tion ti­tled Po­ems, scanned fromyears of note­books (1999– 2003). Price writes the es­say with the tone of some­one who thinks they are do­ing you a fa­vor by lend­ing you their savvy, which gaveme a sort of Kanye “Imma let you fin­ish, but…” feel­ing. Price also has a forth­com­ing col­lec­tion of ap­pro­pri­ated travel blog posts ti­tled Go Home.

New York City suf­fered a cold snap the day I re­ceived Folk­lore U.S. I made up this drink—2.0 oz gin, 0.5 oz char­treuse, soda, mint leaf—and drank as I read the es­say and thought about what Price was telling me. I know how to be cool: by not ever say­ing the word cool. But ac­cord­ing to Price, I amwrong. “First off you don’t be cool, you seem cool.” Is the func­tion of be­ing cool to draw the other in, or to con­trol the space be­tween? Since the urge is li­bid­i­nal, it must be both.

“As a means for the preser­va­tion of the in­di­vid­ual, the in­tel­lect shows its great­est strengths in dis­sim­u­la­tion,” or so says Ni­et­zsche. So it was for Price in Kas­sel, when he al­tered his lan­guage to pitch his pieces in dif­fer­ent con­texts: the ex­hi­bi­tion space ver­sus the gar­ment rack. When pitch­ing to the buy­ers of the lat­ter, he claimed thus: “I wrote it with no ref­er­ence to mil­i­tarism or any art con­cept, I just pre­sented it as white sports­wear.”

So what does Price say cool is? Not talk­ing too much, not mak­ing too much sense, re­vers­ing the ex­pected, and mas­ter­ing the tonus of adult dis­course. In one photo ac­com­pa­ny­ing this last sec­tion, pur­ple mood- light blooms like an orchid around three con­vers­ing mod­els wear­ing white bon­nets. The cap­tion reads “Shit-talk­ing, back­stage af­ter the show.” — Ben Fama is the au­thor of the po­etry col­lec­tion Fan­tasy (Ugly Duck­ling Presse, 2015).

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