Notes on Seth Price’s “Dispersion” (2002)

The notes which appear below were taken while researching Seth Price’s 2002 (though ongoing) work Dispersion, which I consider to be a useful reference point for the development of my own research outcome.

  • Dispersion is “an artwork in the form of an art historical essay” which “was released in various formats and versions over many years” and “was deeply engaged with the net” though “specifically addressed the contemporary art system”. (NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion (n.d.).
  • Published versions of Dispersion include “pages on Price’s website, widely circulated PDFs, print publications, and sculptural objects”. Thus Dispersion extended the boundary of the essay into environments such as the internet and the art gallery space. (NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion (n.d.).
  • “Seth Price’s practice often involves inhabiting a given system of cultural production and distribution, and working within its constraints and formulae”. Perhaps I should be considering what “system” I want my research outcome to inhabit – and accordingly, what “constraints and formulae” that system offers. (NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion (n.d.).
  • Relevant systems of production/distribution which might be useful here include: interactive self-help materials, such as cognitive-behavioural-therapy (CBT) workbooks; school textbooks, handouts or worksheets; and problem-solving diagnostic materials (from industries such as medicine or engineering).
  • Although Dispersion can be read as a critical essay about art and the internet, reading it as an artwork yields additional insight. The transit of Dispersion through the art system revealed certain affordances of that system: its hunger for content; the importance it placed on specific kinds of writing and graphic design, and the sudden awareness of the need for critical writing about the internet. (NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion (n.d.).
  • It is interesting to consider how my own research outcome might be approached or read in different ways: as an essay or manifesto, as a workbook / diagnostic tool, and an artwork in its own right – perhaps subject to different modes of presentation / distribution depending on it’s context or intended user.
  • In (the 2007 PDF version of) his essay, Price likens “production” to “the excretory phase in a process of appropriation”. It is interesting to consider the ways in which my own research product might be an “excretion” of that which I have “appropriated” throughout this project. Perhaps my major “appropriations” have been the works and words of the original WORKSITE contributors – which I am now attempting to formulate into a “product”. (Price 2007).
  • Reinforcing the status of Dispersion as an artwork, Price translated it into a series of physical works in 2008, titled Essay with Knots. Printouts of the InDesign files for the PDF were printed on plastic and formed around knotted ropes. The essay was stretched and molded, treated as image and object without disavowing its status as a digital file or a text, while always emphasizing its status as a part of a larger network of industrial and cultural processes. (NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion (n.d.).
  • Again, it is interesting to consider the different formats that the raw material of my essay/manifesto might inhabit – perhaps simultaneously. These could include a straightforward text; a range of differently illustrated PDF documents; a printable “workbook” with additional blank space for the reader/user to add their own responses to the content; an “artist’s book” which occupies more of an “art object” paradigm; or a series of prints, paintings or sculptures which again adhere to art-object convention.

NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion. (n.d.). NET ART ANTHOLOGY: Dispersion. Available online at: [Accessed 05/08/22].

Price, S., (2007). Dispersion. Available online at: [Accessed 05/08/22].

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