Video accompanying a lecture performance at "WWTBD - What Would Thomas Bernhard Do," May, 2013
Wiener Festwochen at Kunsthalle Wien, curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen, Lucas Gehrmann, Cathérine Hug.
With thanks to Tav Falco for his contribution.
CARGO CARRY CULT
While the visual stimuli
of financial market transactions
- mathematically generated but
erratic nevertheless -
exalt the imagination.
Perpetually seeking dissolution
surreal dichotomies of relationships
invisibility and omnipotence
inconceivability and ad hoc access
time as an object
and space as
the transcendent medium of objectification.
While the ancient Greek placed coins
on the eyes and tongues
of their deceased
to pay Charon for passage to the realm of the shades;
the phenomenal world of terrestrials
darkens and suffocates
in the presence of algorithmic flashes
whose moneyed microseconds
a social event horizon beyond human perception.
The aesthetics of coded resolutions
conceal an elaborate fiction
which glorifies the mind and the body
as volatile and fragmented
and thus quantifiable neuronal objects.
Not one of us lives
the present at such dizzying heights
except as dormant
The automated crest
they call the future
the present before the moment emerges.
And all image erased.
COUNTERING CAPITULATION engages with the inquiries following the Flash Crash of May 6, 2010, an event that went down as the biggest one-day market decline in financial history. Focusing on a remarkable forensic analysis that not only contradicted the official findings of the regulatory authorities and shed light on the impact of algorithmic trading but also developed tools to visualize material processes that operate beyond human perception, Nestler argues that in the current legal framework evidence of market events can only be produced by a double figure of the expert witness: when the (forensic) analyst is joined by a whistleblower.
With this ambivalent, contingent and marginal figure at its heart—a renegade, a traitor, a defector—COUNTERING CAPITULATION proposes a multilayered, transdisciplinary artistic practice engaged in creating narrative instabilities that coagulate dissent into insurrection: "enhancing resolution" in the technological, legal as well as social and political sense of the term.
The video therefore concludes with a call for building "renegade solidarity" between whistleblowers—exemplary figures of contemporary insurrection—and the general public to counter the excesses of (automated) schemes of evaluation and decision-making, not only as regards financial markets but proprietary black box regimes in general.
Research, concept, text and editing: Gerald Nestler
Animation: Sylvia Eckermann
Flash Crash charts and animations courtesy of Nanex LLC
Sound editing: szely
Synthetic algo voice over: Alva & Tom
Special thanks to:
Eric Hunsader, Sylvia Eckermann, Brian Holmes, Eyal Weizman
Produced with the support of:
and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, for the exhibition FORENSIS, March 15 - May 5, 2014, curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizmann.
"THE TREND IS YOUR FRIEND!" (TIYF!) is an artistic translation of the financial market as a social model that shapes our environment. Triggered algorithmically by autonomous robots, visitors could participate in this experimental image and sound machine, and as a consequence immerse themselves in a virtual market place.
The machine’s mode of operation is systemically “self-satisfied”: we humans do not need to engage actively to keep it “alive.” Passive participation is sufficient and thus we can resort to simply watching, observing, and listening to what is unfolding before us. But we may also participate. In this case, we slip—in the true sense of the word—into the role of traders who try to influence the direction of market movements. However, the players realize that they are hardly in a position to manipulate the system individually due to the force of trends that results from the accumulated transactions of all the actors (human as well as algorithmic ones). How this might still be possible by mutual cooperation is an experience that is optional and part of the benefit evaluation as well as the emotional involvement of the “human actors.”
Beyond the usual artistic array of (symbolic) values, TIYF! challenges and questions our notions of individuality and community:
To what extent do trends influence us individually and as social beings?
To what extent do we become part of an economization that promises profits and wealth and at the same time develops standards for our behavior and inclusion?
To what extent do individuals who oppose trends and deviate from standard norms become socially marginalized, and thus the actual losers of the game?
Is the eponymous “friend” an embodiment of George Orwell’s “Big Brother,” updated for a knowledge society where mathematical algorithms and probability theory squeeze profits from the very resource — its individual agents?
Are we witnessing the fashioning of another control system—a subtle, shiny and complex surface that creates a new breed of derivative uniformity and denies us our very own contingent futures?
In a world in which creativity, aesthetics, information, messaging, and flows lead the way and where expert systems and lay knowledge are becoming intrinsically intertwined, art resurfaces as a transdisciplinary laboratory with open access to perform, interact, examine and learn. Knowledge production is changing and artistic “tracking competence,” in Latour’s sense, might prove to be a potential tool to work and live with contingency. An enzymatic artwork, The Trend Is Your Friend! represents a renewed idea of the artistic laboratory, where the public enters the discourse and participates in the experiment.