“He’s totally crazy!” an insider confided to me. “He wrote this insane book all about himself” (which said insider admits he has never read) “and gets all his friends together to read it. That’s crazy!”
But good crazy, right?
At an event produced by Art Production Fund and White Columns, an all-star roster of art world veterans read from the revised edition of Sean Landers’ SIC, originally printed as (sic) almost twenty years ago. The daisy chain of old friends read nonstop till 2am, by which time the audience had been whittled down to a few concrete devotees, who were rewarded with delicious pizza and the remnants of the vodka open bar.
Readers included the old bachelor-pad studiomates John Currin, Richard Phillips, and brother Kevin Landers; the stately art-world incarnate Clarissa Dalrymple; former Landers dealer Andrea Rosen; new Landers dealer Friedrich Petzel; and of course, Sean Landers himself. Rob Pruitt was lined up to read, only minutes after the signing party at nearby Gavin Brown for his new book, Pop Touched Me. He didn’t get to read, however, as the event’s schedule required some trimming for brevity.
Star-studded? Indeed, there was even a portrait station to capture each of the shimmering pulsars participating.
Like a teen dunking his little brother while swimming, SIC plunges its readers into the neurotic cesspools of Sean Landers’ polarized self-evaluations. His ruminations, mostly phallocentric, regularly cover masturbation, getting laid, and the shortcomings of his own anatomy.
But he also circles the pithy topics of an old friend hopelessly lost in poetic misanthropy, the welcome gentrification of his neighborhood and himself as he turns 30, a revitalizing yet anticlimactic love affair in Greece, and the gradual, painful sinking of his relationship with Michelle, his girlfriend of three years at the time. She is now his wife, but that break-up nearly pushed him over the edge. Luckily, there is a dramatic deus-ex-machina rescue by the tender memory of Sean’s long dead sister.
The new version of (sic) is so heavily revised that it was difficult for me to read along in my 1993 print. But revisions might be helpful. The 1993 version frustrated readers because of its protagonist’s recurring self-flagellation, the manic-depressive pace, and the aimless march of unresolved conflicts. But the funny parts are hysterical and the intimate candor seems touching; and doesn’t retouching the text compromise the stream-0f-conscious spontaneity that makes it so gripping?
I love the book. But did the evening’s stream of readers dissipate into an arduous drone? Was there nothing to look at, something frustrating for an audience of visual artists? The projection cast behind the reader added nothing but scale and light. How about an accompanying slideshow? Or intermittent projections of the handwritten manuscript?
And did the absence of young artists participating seem to wall up Sean Landers and his peers from the great flea market of influence? This blog praises without reservation Sean Landers as a titan of 1990s art, and for some critics, he is THE FACE of that period’s slacker art. But the phalanx of mostly heterosexual 40-somethings seemed to deny the intergenerational fertility of Sean Landers’ work…
…which should be extruded through the channels of more mixed 30- and 20-somethings. Once a 90s artist, always a 90s artist? (I sure hope not! I wish there were more artists like Sean Landers.) What will a decade with Petzel produce?