volatile smile, 2011
Photography/Installation, Dimensions Variable
For »volatile smile«, the artists took an in-depth look at the territory of the commercial and financial sectors, examining the offices of trading companies in Chicago through photographs and extensive interviews with traders, programmers and businesspeople. This material from the stage settings and playgrounds of the daily flow of money, already revealing in and of itself, and both imposing and frightening in its roughness and compactness, has been rendered into an impressive installation and photographic work. Contrary to expectations, the wall of monitors stays dark. The LEDs glow to show that the power is on, indicating that all of the installation’s equipment is ready for use. The groupings of the flat screens, sorted according to various principles of composition, correspond to the photographs that the artists took in various trading companies’ offices. These groupings recreate the amassed configurations of monitors typically found on brokers’ desks. There is no trace of the now-vanished flickering changing columns of numbers running across the screens, synchronizing global markets and commodity exchanges, nor of the billions of computations driving their automated trading on the basis of algorithms known only to insiders. Charts, churns and clearing houses have all been turned off. In this way, the black rectangles of the computer screens become formal aesthetic elements. It is no coincidence that they echo the paintings of Mondrian and Malevich’s Black Square. Something erratic has been inscribed into the installation. In its certainty and elegant rigor, the ensemble recalls the particular presence of the black rectangular monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the appearance of which is connected with significant leaps ahead in the development of the human race. The meaning of the monolith’s appearance is unclear in the film, and its appearance is uncanny and dangerous. This powerful image of a dark, possibly destructive power may be imperfectly analogized with the term »black screen,« which arose in the offices of the finance world in the early 1980s. When there were no offers for trades, the columns of numbers and information would wander out of view on the CRT monitors of the time, and the screens would go entirely black. That was the trader’s true dystopian moment.
Excerpt from the exhibition catalogue "volatile smile" by Frank Wagner, NGBK, 2011