April 13, 2011  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Seth Price’s Riff on New Jack Swing

Seth Price. 2002. From Sound Collector Audio Review magazine, issue #3

If Robert Smithson saw the world as a museum, artists of Seth Price’s generation see the “www” as theirs. For them, the gallery can be anything: they project a film and play music in a gallery, so the question of where in that jumble of everything they want to make their work is a difficult one. The Web is both a cabinet of curiosities and a studio where viewers are invited in to see their latest endeavors.

Begun in 2001 and still going strong today, Price’s Title Variable project encompasses essays and mixtapes in both published and downloadable forms. His video NJS Map, an excerpt from “New York Woman,” the artist’s 2001 MoMA video lecture on music production technology, illustrates the historical development of so-called new jack swing, a short-lived yet influential musical genre of the late 1980s and early 1990s that combined hip-hop beats and r&b vocals. Price has called the movement “just old enough to be vaguely embarrassing.” In 2002, Price created a new soundtrack for NJS Map, which could be described as an animated genealogical tree of new jack swing, and made it into an independent piece.

The video, which is on view in the exhibition Looking at Music 3.0, corresponds with Price’s essay, “Journalistic Approach to New Jack Swing,” and a new jack swing music compilation (2002), both of which are available free of charge online (see below). New jack swing is only one element of Title Variable, which includes five essays and music compilations ranging from “Academic Sampler Music” to “Computer Game Soundtracks,” and explores how digital technologies have affected music production. By refusing to crystallize the form of his works, and by making many of them available online, Price challenges the notions of the ‘finished’ work of art and undermines the dynamics of the art market.

The full text of “Journalistic Approach to New Jack Swing” (first printed in Sound Collector Audio Review #3) is available in PDF format, and the associated mixtape is available as an MP3. Both are well worth a close look/listen.