PRINT December 2015


Seth Price

Felix Bernstein is sensitive to the symptoms of the hypermediatized New York City creative realm because he exhibits them. In Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry (Insert Blanc Press) he calls bullshit on a lot of people, including Felix Bernstein, a character who understands sneak attacks, strategy, unmasking, disarming. Why this martial language? Because it’s a moment in the culture when people think everything’s fucked up. That statement should be interrogated, and Bernstein does. Putting dumb scare quotes around anything in the sentence lends it new funny/vicious flavors, and it still stands.

Bernstein’s book is basically a symptomology report, which is one definition of an artwork. Symptoms include youth culture, the avant-garde, queer theory, alt lit, and social media. What use words in a visual sphere like the art world? What use politics? Are young people screwed (or the avant-garde, or queers, or . . .)? What to do in a realm where “avant-garde” or “queer” or “political” is apparently welcome, yet something feels off; in other words, what about subjectivity, when identity is positioned as branding? Subversion is increasingly prized, for reasons that usually come down to money, but it’s correspondingly harder to do, and rewarded only when it has the right pedigree.

Luckily, the spirit of subversion needs neither justification nor aim. Keeping a space open can be a political act, and that’s what Bernstein’s doing with his writing, or his persona, and maybe there’s no difference. It’s hard to say what this space is, but you could call it a space of trouble. You want a good book to rip things open; the ripping-open here happens at the level of the voice. To write is to become a voice, and by his own account, Bernstein’s is the voice of a critic, an artist, a young man, who is white, queer, and privileged, and angry, generous, and covetous. But the voice here also seems to contain the opposite of all those terms, whatever that means. Someone has to be a traitor; interesting artists are often traitors to themselves.

Seth Price is an artist based in New York. His novel Fuck Seth Price (Leopard) came out this year.