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June 25, 2007

The G-7 Stock Puppets


An Internet-driven "Commodities" Trading Environment

The G-7 Stock Puppets are an Internet-driven kinetic installation that tracks the movements of global stock markets with seven larger-than-life marionette puppets. Using a real-time data stream, a network of PC laptops, and a complex electro-mechanical control system, the installation reanimates the abstract machinations of global financial markets as an absurdist carnival puppet show.

Unfortunately, the script for this puppet show remains a bit hazy. One moment, we might find the NASDAQ puppet soaring 20 feet into the air, consumed with the latest IPO elation. The next moment, without apparent reason or warning, the Nikkei puppet might fall to the ground, crumpling into a fetal posture of weakness and desperation. From the opening to the closing bell, the puppets continue to rise and fall in serendipitous synchronicity with the "arbitrary" movements of the G-7 market indices. Clearly, in this puppet show, the markets themselves are the "puppet masters". But we may ask ourselves, "Who are the puppets?"

Physical Particulars: The puppets are made from 8 foot tall fiberglass mannequins, dressed in gray-pinstriped double-breasted suits, accessorized with standard-issue red power ties. Large VGA monitors for heads stream stock ticker symbols and index numbers for the individual markets. Each puppet movement cues a face animation of the appropriate finance minister on the monitor head- the face morphing and contorting in relation to the direction of market movement. The puppets are elevated and articulated by cables extending down from pulleys supported 25' overheard on seven individual puppet towers. Surrounding this mechanized market ballet is an ambient soundscape of shouted buy and sell orders, bells and gavels, racing heartbeats and terrified curses.

Performance: In the middle of the semi-circle arc of puppet towers is a "Blackjack style" trading table, staffed by a tuxedo-clad dealer. The dealer keeps up a steady banter of market analysis, beckoning the brave to come forward and speculate on the index of their choice. Feeling bullish on Germany? Step up and place your "bet" on the Germany circle. No money please, just the random ephemera you happen to have with you- keys to unknown locks, photos of ex-lovers, business cards from clients you'd rather forget, or whatver else you might find in your pockets, purse or backpack. If the corresponding puppet goes up, choose your prize from the pile of profit in the trading pit. If the puppet goes down, you lose your "bet" and build the pile of profit for the next day trader.

Token Theoretical Elaboration: The Puppet installation is a gentle commentary on our society's near pathological infatuation with global stock markets in this era of the "new economy". At the same time, it is also a serious experiment to map the complex information stream of financial data onto dynamic objects in the physical world. Our intention is to re-embody this information ecology in a manner that reveals some of the character and patterning encoded in the fragments of the data stream. And during the process, we hope to also laugh a bit at the arbitrary control this data stream holds over many of our emotional lives and reckonings of self-worth. [Via Pasta and Vinegar]

Posted by jo at June 25, 2007 02:01 PM