If I were to put one item in a time capsule to represent this moment in America, it would be Seth Price's How to Disappear in America. Printed as a catalogue for Price’s 2008 exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, this little red book is a Richard Princian-object of appropriation, a textual remix of information found exclusively online, the ~90% majority of which is an exact reproduction of a countercultural guide to falling off the grid by one “Fredric L. Rice,” first published in 1997 on Skeptictank.org under the title Vanishing Point: How to disappear in America without a trace.
The appeal of Rice’s writing to an artist like Price is obvious: earnestly designed with utility in mind, recontextualized, Vanishing Point reads like Nabokov 2.0. Rice’s character is revealed through his lush prose. He has a strong moral center (“If you're thinking of hiding from a moral responsibility—such as child support—I want you to stop reading this right now and shoot yourself.”) and is extremely pragmatic (car chases never end well). Rice’s goal is to help you disappear, to “Run from Authority (or The Establishment, The Man, The Fuzz, The P.I.G., ‘Them’),” though, as he opens, you should be prepared, too, “for a spiritual awakening.”
As a guide, How to Disappear in America is already dated—this was made before 9/11, before Obama’s drones and Snowden’s leaks—but its portrait of America is still pointed. “It's getting harder and harder to hide in America,” Rice/Price write, “There used to be defacto ‘underground’ or ‘freedom loving’ people—hippies, if you will… These days, however, in our increasingly paranoid and dangerous society, offering assistance to strangers is a bad idea: It gets people killed… Also, it’s best to avoid going to McDonald's or other fast food places if you have a habit of doing so.”