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FROM CONTINGENT BECOMING TO DERIVATIVE FUTURES INQUIRIES into a CONTEMPORARY BIOPOLITICAL POWER REGIME

The FICTIONS and TECHNOWLEGDE of FINANCE plus potential aesthetic-political NARRATIVES of COUNTERACTION

Gerald Nestler

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This publication assembles three exhibition projects and a performative lecture realized between 2012-2014 by Gerald Nestler. The artistic research presented focuses on some of the complex and powerful mechanisms that generate the currently paradigmatic field of finance and its biopolitical consequences. At the same time, it attempts to explore potentials for re-imagining relations beyond imagining “finance” as the cornerstone of a “good society,” to paraphrase economist and Nobel laureate Robert Shiller (Finance and the Good Society, 2012). The common theme are the constrictions and restraints that limit the contingent and multifarious becoming of subjectivity within a field that does all it can to rein in the unknown, the uncertain. What could be termed the technowledge of contemporary finance – its technological and mathematical models combined in application – is unleashed not only to evaluate and exploit future possibilities but to accomplish a time horizon in which future risks collapse into present ones. “In the long run we are all dead,” J. M. Keynes remarked. In the ever shorter run, however, life is for those who speculate on and exploit futures-at-present. Losses are largely externalized and redistributed (by, for instance, austerity measures), resulting in a ‘death’ of lived commons and direct social relations. Beyond the experience realm of human beings, complex interrelations have fashioned a habitat for algorithmic bots that act and decide in microseconds. 6


At the same time, the Byzantine intricacies of derivative contracts and the gigantic leverage nourishing arbitrage trading schemes spill over into wider social arenas. The recurring spectacles of volatility building up to excess booms and market crashes bursting out into bottomless pits for the public at large signify a cultural hegemony of financialized recognition schemes. At their horizon – that is, at their heart, as the horizon seized by algorithmic ‘gazes’ is internalized at the core – is a reconstruction of social relations and self-conception. Incorporating in relational currencies of flesh and/or silicon, they produce, drill and disseminate themselves to satisfy the thirst for ever new and innovative risk potentialities; they empty their present into speculative cycles which from the future accredit and assign value back on them. We could call this function of capitalizing subjectivity and its relations the Human Derivative. A cargo cult reversed, such rituals of evaluation, price discovery and social integration exceed neoliberalism by introducing a derivative condition of relations. At loss with the contingency of events, however, the quasi-solid mysteries of market equilibrium melt into thin air. Even the ‘myth-dream’ of quantification and computation models, the ‘visions’ of algorithmic trading in the cognitive night of a future-at-present, provide us with deceitful narratives, as their liquidity dries up in a flash when a whiff of crisis is anticipated. Hence, nothing but crisis is solid in volatile times; crisis alone imparts certainty; it is collateral and last resort at the same time. But what if we stop bothering about crisis and break its cycles? 7


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ON PURPOSE. The New Derivative Order Kunstraum Bernsteiner, Vienna February 28 – April 25, 2012 ...the market is always right, it’s a life form that has being in its own right. You know in a Gestalt sort of way – it has form and meaning – it has life, it has life in and of itself ... and we are a sum of our parts, or it is a sum of its parts. Unnamed trader, in an interview with sociologist Karin Knorr-Cetina

| Speculation—Risk | Credit—Debt | Contingency—Probability | | Value—Price | Volatility—Leverage | Algorithms—Decision-making |

The impact of financial markets on the social construction of reality has become thoroughly evident. From this perspective, a society that has incorporated economic interpretations of narratives and concepts such as credit, debt, risk or speculation faces a specific challenge: To what extent have we abandoned the present for a future we cannot know even if the most complex mathematical models are employed? ON PURPOSE. The New Derivative Order addresses the terms preposed, which have been appropriated by financial and economic interests to a high degree. The aim of the exhibition was to engage in a discussion around these terms and their respective relevance not only for our perception of the world but also its production. This included the arguably all-encompassing, net-like appearance of the financial empire, repercussions on social institutions and the effects on individual modes of self-realization. The artistic involvement did not stop at a critical account; rather, potentials were addressed that go beyond the status quo of a neoliberal and financially dominated world in order to multiply the narratives and fictions behind the above-mentioned notions by re-formulating individual and common agencies. 9


ON PURPOSE. The New Derivative Order was an exhibition in progress. It hosted artworks and performances as well as talks and discussions with economists, traders, sociologists, philosophers and artists. The events and their participants were objects and exhibits equal to the installations, videos, voices, drawings, texts and algorithms – they all inhabited and populated the space (partly temporarily) and created contexts for thoughts, acts and objects and thus for further research as an associative practice.

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Exhibition The exhibition was part of an ongoing project that offered a platform for a profound exchange between art, philosophy, sociology and finance. Calling for a radical reflection of the issues at stake, the project assembled contributions to a critique of financial biopolitics in order to attempt a redefinition of narrative structures in-between social evaluations and relations. The exhibition was structured around three formats of artistic research: artworks | performance workshops and events | talks and discussions. The setting and its exhibits changed with the performances and events.

Works Videos, sculptures, installations, photography, audio and text works, algorithms. The works constituted aspects of an interrogation of the following questions: How is our imagination of reality changed by a perception influenced by economic and financial interests? Which purposes, ideologies and technological penetrations are behind the distortions we today see in the social fabrics on a global scope? How can we lever out dominating interpretations and realize new approaches in the area of agency in a social environment that is significantly made up of a narrative fusion of economic interest, mathematical codes and technologies of space and time.

Performative Events The show opened with a performance, which was followed by a workshop with international performers and choreographers. The Europe In Motion workshop – a EU-project co-organized by brut (Vienna), Bimeras (Istanbul), Dance4 (Nottingham) and springdance (Utrecht) and led by Jonathan Burrows and Gerald Nestler (Vienna stage) – developed interventions revolving around the body as the place of ideological objectifications of capital and labour. The subsequent performance event was part of imagetanz festival. 11


Talks and discussions The theme of the exhibition was also examined on a theoretical level in talks and discussions with participants from different fields of research. These meetings addressed political, philosophical, sociological and artistic questions by close questioning financial markets and their ideological as well as methodological foundations, rationalizations, and fictions. In this context, a PhD seminar of the Centre for Research Architecture, Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London was hosted at which amongst other questions contingency was discussed as a medium in relation to philosophy, sociology, finance and art as practice-based research.

Contributions by: Elie Ayache (financial engineer, philosopher) Jonathan Burrows (choreographer, performer) Sylvia Eckermann (artist) Brian Holmes (art and cultural critic) Karin Knorr-Cetina (sociologist) Further contributions: Konrad Becker (artist) Katja Mayer (researcher in science studies) Armin Medosch (artist and researcher) Stefan Nowotny (philosopher) Felix Stalder (sociologist) Simon Streather (artist and actor) Peter Szely (composer, electronic sound artist) Eyal Weizman (architect and theoretician Members of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, London. 12


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C = S N(d1) – X e-rT N(d2) Works CONTINGENT CLAIM. Portrait of a Philosophy Video, 35’23’’ The video portraits Elie Ayache, the author of The Blank Swan. The End of Probability (2011). Ayache, a financial engineer and former options trader who has turned to philosophy in order to propose a new theoretical framework for financial markets in which contingency replaces probability, speaks about derivative trading in relation to philosophical concepts developed by Quentin Meillassoux, Alain Badiou, Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson, amongst others. By referring to J. L. Borges’ Pierre Menard. Author of the Quixote, he conceptualizes price discovery as a form of writing (derivatives). The exchange of contingent claims (written) to him constitutes the “technology of the future.” The video was shown as part of the assemblage Bottomless Pit, Elastic.

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P = Xe-rT N(-d2) – S N(-d1) BOTTOMLESS PIT, ELASTIC Assemblage A trampoline or swing, the sculpture’s volatile architecture when set in motion by the visitors starts dancing the random walk. The skeleton of a new and all embracing“being” or “life form,” its flesh is composed of an archival net of molecular material, a tapestry abundant in historic and contemporary attempts to rationalize the situational and contingent economy of the future. The work assembles attempts to craft a situational technology which “creates future(s)” on financial markets as well as critical and opposing voices. By making the inherent volatility of the financial framework come alive the assemblage calls for a radical artistic and theoretical involvement in re-addressing practices and notions such as credit, debt, risk, margins, speculation, and automation to counter what is at stake when we exploit our and the earth’s future at present.

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LA DERIVATION HUMAINE Temporarily applied text works based partly on modified quotes from different sources (e.g. Jack London, The Heart of Darkness).

SPEECH ACT ALGORIZM Drawing / Writing in progress A large piece of paper served as the recording medium of the discussions and talks and became a medium of agency over the course of the exhibition. The Black-Scholes-Merton formula – applied to calculate prices in derivative option trading – was inscribed as a “water mark”. Arguably the most significant mathematical model of our time, it was awarded with the Nobel Prize in economics in 1997. The 1987 market crash is considered the event when the this model collapsed in the face of trading as an emergent activity. Nevertheless, the formula continues to be used widely to calibrate option prices in order to protect against incommensurabilities. Speech Act Algorizm appropriated the notion of recalibration to critically address social and cultural moments of derivativisation and to activate a turn from transaction to action.

I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS Audio recording Financial algorithms (a term that refers to the 9th century scholar Al-Chwarizmi) are applied to perform complex operations at low latency. Currently operating at millisecond speed, high frequency trading is conducted beyond the threshold of human cognitive abilities. Thus, decision-making processes are increasingly based on automated algorithmic processes. The Flash Crash on May 6, 2010 was a watershed event in financial history, as it marks the first major market crash triggered by algorithms. A live audio recording covering the incident from the S&P trading floor in Chicago gives evidence of the event’s severity.

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Love In the 21st Century (COOL POP) Love in the 21st Century (Cool Pop) re-actualises Robert Indiana’s sculpture love (1964) by calling into question the state of mutual recognition in the current social climate and the interpretation of the term CREDIT under neoliberalism. Installed in the courtyard of the exhibition space, the ice sculpture melted away under adverse outside influences.

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VOLATILITY SMILE On Enduring Performance and Participation With Agnieszka Dmochowska, Karin Pauer, Gabri M. Einsiedl, Julia Mach, Filip Szatarski, Jasmin Hoffer, Martin Tomann. The performers stage a living sculpture or tableau vivant derived from Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman’s photographic collage In Voluptas Mors (1951).

The common task is to physically realize a virtually impossible approximation to the historic photomontage and to hold the position as long as possible. Far from being surreal, the time-based sculpture effects a visual experience of a fragile beauty. Epitomizing the absurdities that materialize in the spectacular reconstructions of commonality, the provocations by the corporate reframing of debt and solidarity become corporeal.

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Special project in the Basement CRYSTAL MATH 1-channel video with 5.1 sound Video installation: Sylvia Eckermann Lyrics/title: Gerald Nestler. Sound: Peter Szely. Voice: Simon Streather

With thousands of meters of nylon threat, Sylvia Eckermann weaved a spider web-like projection screen to visualize the utilization of networks as traps that catch pray rather than as communicative realms of social media. Her captivating “expressive verbal image” (Sabine Dreher) addresses a pervasive scheme ranging from financial markets to data retention to the Web 2.0. The branding of Facebook as a social network and agent of change, for instance, stands in stark contrast to its market value as a “dark pool” (an unregulated exchange place) of economic information exploitation by means of big data technologies. As regards finance, algorithms derived from mathematical models make up about 70 per cent of transactions in major markets; further to that, decisionmaking is being sourced out to these processes, as transcations at micorsecond speed are all too fast for human cognition. Thus, the recent quantitative turn in finance manifests a growing dependence on, if not addiction to, mathematically computed calculus – a ‘truth’ expressed in the probabilitsic approximations of a divinatory science of sorts. Unfolding beneath the profound abyss of split seconds, a gulf opens not only between human and artficial actors. Beyond predatory schemes of competitive advantage, a parasitic system that is at the same time the host produces risks that open up to yawning chasms in the social fabrics of societies, their institutions and their productive capacities. The contingent and therefore manifold options of shaping the future feed derivative fictions of a future-at-present. The voice of Simon Streather enunciates these bottomless pits put into words by Gerald Nestler, whose lyrics The New Derivative Order depict the market as a being that breeds our “recombinant social DNA.” Oh baby! How you nourish me! 22


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THE NEW DERIVATIVE ORDER My skin’s a neat thing Inhibiting and enforcing Waves of corporate nervous streams. My flesh is a neat thing. Moving about freely I rise again and again To spill my love into you. Pervasive Accumulative I commune. Ecstatic Erratic I sing my volatile tune. I change modes And composition. I contract commodified visions. I’m your recombinant Social DNA I thrive When you gather in hope. And I wither When you fall in despair. I move in seasonal tides But my seasons Are way to elusive For you to cherish the ride. So be assured! In your presence I dwell And I smile At the surf of all your human desires. In your future I thrust And I gaze At the tide of your falling pride When you yell at my depthless mires. Oh! You drink me and drown Oh! You eat me and choke. For it’s you I digest. For it’s you in whom I invest. Oh, baby! How you nourish me! I change modes And composition. I contract commodified visions. I’m your recombinant Social DNA But some say: I am running on empty, Uncovered, And that it’s a crime. My lifespan is but a quarter And my value’s not worth a dime. They say: I’m a loaded gun, A structural affliction. And that my derivative yields Only feed bubble-fiction. They say: I’m reason’s veil A mere mirror of your emotions. I only reflect what is pale, A blasphemous contortion, A daimonic religion to fail. But my love! Be assured! I’m a bastion of calm For I won’t disappoint you When you come and surrender again.

Oh! You drink me and drown Oh! You eat me and choke. For it’s you I digest. For it’s you in whom I invest. Oh, baby! How you nourish me! Oh! It’s a quick deal. Oh, such an easy feel’, You make me live And I make you die For intertwined our longings lie. I change modes And composition. I contract commodified visions. I’m your recombinant Social DNA. Private consumption And debt Are all that I ask And here is my bid in exchange: That into my branded mind’s Immaterial texture You breathe out your name. So be assured! I fulfil your dependence On financial nutrition, On unquenchable futures, And that game of hire and fire. Oh, baby! All those thrills you so dearly admire. I change modes And composition. I contract commodified visions. I’m your recombinant Social DNA Quasi-poetic science Co-opts alliance Charging my voice. I renew my licence Enunciating the essence That alone is never due to expire: You are my pray and I’m your desire. So, my love! Be assured! I’m no entity Nor nature’s child. I tender no single chance For shorter or longer I’m taking a glance At you, my options advance. And I stay put To call that moment Of another time And I see its trailing behind, An arena fluid and sublime: All life a commodity Exchanged in my realm. Traded endlessly In numbers more than divine. My fluid body is the emergence Of truth. It’s my temporal field Where your space becomes Loose. So be assured! I adore you, my lamb But beware of my wrath. Live in my shelter Or your world Shall go bust.

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In the Eye of the Storm the Future Rests Assemblage, drawing Based on the architectural design of the trading floor that precedes architectural modernity (a patent by Ruben Jennings, 1878) the work maps its relations to contemporaneous developments in communication technology on the one hand and historic precursors such as the Greek theatre (initially a place of oracle) on the other hand. The collage produces a panorama that traces divinatory practices from the construction of the oracle after consultation in ancient Greece to a construction of oracular price discovery during consultation in market making. The characteristics of today’s scopic and global theatre of finance become increasingly visible, as the potentiality and subjectivity of the present moment disolves in hollow promises of a future-at-present. 25


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Next page: The New Derivative Order. Register, print, size variable, 2014

Special thanks to: Alois Bernsteiner and his team who made this exhibition project possible. Sylvia Eckermann. Elie Ayache, Christian Droste, Susanne Haider & art:phalanx, Brian Holmes, Bettina Kogler & brut, Karin Knorr-Cetina, Katja Mayer, Armin Medosch & the technopolitcs research group, Bruce Stinson, Klaus Strickner, Felix Stalder, Peter Szely, and everyone at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. www.friendsandart.at/GeraldNestler/onpurpose.html The fabric mounted in the exhibition space was modeled after the so-called “volatility smile� (see graph below). These implied volatility patterns signify deficiencies in the Black-Scholes option pricing model which assumes constant volatility. Unknown before the crash of 1987, this theoretical anomaly of option trading implies that contingencies, i.e. events that cannot be foreseen, reduce standard probability calculus to absurdity. Following the crash, out-of-the-money options, which have no intrinsic value and tend to erode quickly, have been priced higher to due a loss of confidence in the standard model.

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Building Ruins Reports and reflections abound on the concept of “ruin” as financial condition that can apply equally to individual homeowners, small businesses, banks and even to entire nation-states. But the notion of ruin might indicate another current development concerning the temporal order of global finance today and its impact on the social and legal spaces that constitute the realm inhabited by people. On May 6, 2010, high-frequency trading in the E-mini S&P futures market started a cascade of selling activity in an already bearish situation that spilled over into other markets and market places. The event termed as the “Flash Crash” resulted in the biggest one-day point decline in the history of the Dow Jones. The Flash Crash (in the words of London School of Economics’ Daniel Beunza “a watershed event in the history of markets”) on the one hand constitutes the ultimate ruin of the vanishing socio-spatial arena of exchange and price discovery. The open outcry-trading pit was shot into pieces in a havoc of six minutes, in which automated trading forced old-school market makers to clear the floor. A vivid audio of this event can be found on YouTube (search tradersaudio.com). On the other hand, the event might serve as a template for a wider context, in which spatial relations tend to become subjected to a temporal mode of markets. High-frequency, or “flash,” trading is a set of financial methodologies based on algorithms allowing executions of trades in milliseconds. Today, it amounts to over 70% of equity trades in the US and is growing all over the world. Its proponents claim high-frequency trading deepens the pools of liquidity in the markets, reducing volatility. It also shortcuts the relatively illiquid and slow human agents on the few remaining trading pits and shows a stark contrast to the exchange of imitation and control between human traders on site. The pace of global financial circulation flushing in and out of economies is systematically setting new records. In this temporal scheme, space becomes non-space, deflating in the electronic moments of transaction. Negotiating risk in temporal threads evokes a high potential of constant price assurance for 32


those invested and a ‘de-securitization’ of legal liability. It also poses a threat to older social systems and even nation-states that cannot simply dispose of the “old orders” of space and jurisdiction. The spatial realms inhabited by individuals—consisting of their social, societal and cultural constructions and multifarious connections—are undergoing a decisive shift from political and legal to financial control systems through financialization. This adaptation of derivative finance methodologies to the social arena is the truly unprecedented side-effect of HFT, yielding a concise new socio-spatial equation: transaction disposes of action. The flow of algorithmic trades deconstructs social and spatial architectures by “building ruins”. The ruin is the global structural “settlement” of derivative finance, as it constitutes the precarious space in which the negotiation of risk is not disturbed. Social fabric is turned into ruins to provide the essential sites of accelerated intrusion and withdrawal of capital. The commodification and ‘liquidization’ of everything—including the emergence of what I call “human derivatives”—can be seen as the method of deconstruction, i.e. construction of ruins by which the standardized exchange of contracts regulates the assessment of value on a screen of global scope. The current debates and frantic policies around the debt crises of nation states such as Ireland, Portugal, Spain or Greece (and their banks), the subprime housing crisis, even pit trading itself (as the arena of exchange) are only a few examples of the psychology of derivative finance paving its way beyond social and spatial dimensions. Contrary to other invasions of power (such as military ones) this system creates ruins as a collateral of its own securities. As an order of near-immediacy it distorts economies and fragments space. The space of action is abandoned, further allowing transactions to flow free of human agency. Any kind of policy or law that tries to regulate trading of derivatives is interpreted by its advocates as an unruly infringement of the rule of “free” trade, although the latest crisis has made it obvious that the main argument for market economy— that only the market and its mechanism of supply and demand provide real prices and values – has not only been suspended but rendered inoperative. Today, for instance, we are witnessing the ruin of older architectures of food supply for millions of people that rely on what has been turned into ‘structured commodities’ as the new El Dorado of capitalist speculation (by turning spatial into temporal dimensions of negotia33


tion) while at the same time there are plans to give back to nature some of the ruins of a derelict industrialization and financialization in the USA. The institutionalized legal systems of the modern nation-state cannot cope with this automated, globalized system of finance. Deregulation—a manifestation of a set of arbitrary rules instead of the rule of law—has therefore helped to bring about a decisive weakening of democratic structures. The crisis of legality is abundantly evident in the absence of a global approach to financial law; individual nations and their citizenries are largely undefended by weak international regulatory bodies, whose main advisors and even representatives often come from the finance industry proper. With the radical decoupling of finance and economy we ought to radically rethink the entire notion of “derivatives” not as financial instruments of transaction but as nodes of coherence underlying human agency. The slogan of the 1990s, still haunting today, needs to be reformulated: “It’s not the economy; it’s the people, stupid!” Postscriptum: Outsourcing and investing in financial products has not only led to a stifling of industrial production especially in the USA but also to an infrastructure that is deteriorating. On the one hand, the congress does not even agree on state investment in essential infrastructure. On the other hand, a specific infrastructure was recently buried into the ground between New York and Chicago: The Spread Networks Chicago-NY Dark Fiber network was built on a stretch of 1300 km between the financial centers of both cities. It offers a 13.33 millisecond round trip, which is of course slightly faster than any other infrastructure could take you back and forth (Kevin Slater in a TED-talk compares it with a mouse click that is 37 times slower). This fiber optic cable doesn’t, of course, transport humans or commodities. Instead, it was built to transport algorithms on the shortest possible route to save 3 milliseconds, which according to Professor Ben Van Vliet at the Illinois Institute of Technology is “close to an eternity in automated trading”. The costs for this ultimate trading weapon, which have not been disclosed, were estimated by Forbes to be around 300 million Dollars. And as Algo Trading makes up about 70 per cent of today’s trading in US stocks, “anybody pinging both markets has to be on this line, or they’re dead,” as Jon A. Najarian says, a co-founder of OptionMonster, a company tracking high frequency trading. This is a far cry from medieval Italian 34


moneylenders breaking their bank on the piazza when they were forced out of business. And one might wonder what will break in this system in circumstance of bankruptcy. Or rather, with the financial crisis as a forced ruining of social institutions and a further ramping up of financial technologies, don’t we need to realize that human action is itself faced with a kind of bankruptcy, at least in those representative forms still so dear to us? We might therefore see ourselves confronted with a situation that would be better described by a term such as “sociocruptcy”, a broken social order, in which algorithms with the speed of light define value, worth and along with it humanity or what we used to think of it. It will need more than an occupation of Wall Street – a mere symbol of an older order. This territory is also confronted with ruin by an upgrade in technology that rings in a shift from the occupation of space to one of time. It doesn’t only arrest the future but the moments of presence as well. What we actively need to confront today might therefore be the dark and light pools of virtual bets that define the contingent realm of reality.

This text without the postscriptum was first published in January 2011 in the The New City Reader, Issue 9: Business and Legal (with members of the Centre for Research Architecture, Department of Visual Culture, Goldsmiths College, London) during the exhibition The Last Newspaper at The New Museum, New York. 35


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CARRIER HOTEL Assemblage of video, sound, text, objects and neon, 2010-2013

Carrier Hotels are no residences for human travellers. As sensitive spaces of the financial industry, their rooms are computer server hard drives and their hallways the bandwidths of data corridors. Data packets dwell for time spaces calculated in microseconds – and thus beyond human cognitive abilities – only to travel on with the lowest latency feasible. While this constitutes a social glitch of enormity for discretionary competence, a new dimension of (trans-) action patterns manifests in algorithms and derivative contracts. Questions pertaining to risk and hedging, venture and insuring as well as credit (debt) and security are posed on a speculative level whose volatile fluctuations oscillate between the poles of probability calculus and contingent events.

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In the form of a symbolic hotel room, Carrier Hotel assembles perceptions that put the complexity of such events in perspective. The assemblage is composed of new work but also hosts existing art works and material: The architecture of the hotel is composed of an authentic derivative contract (328 pages printed on transparent foil) that was introduced in the market in 2007 and subsequently caused a market crash. Predatory Glitch, 2010, the processing of a live audio coverage of the Flash Crash (by Ben Lichtenstein of TradersAudio) that deals with the displacement of human by automated trading agents. Contingent Claim. Portrait of a Philosophy, 2012, a video with the options trader, financial engineer and philosopher Elie Ayache on a new philosophy of derivative markets that attempts to replace the paradigm of probability with one of contingency. Hot Potato. No risk no fun in the dark pool, 2013, is a neon text work on the occurrence of a signal event as a bifurcation on the ‘social event horizon’.

Carrier Hotel was shown at GLITCH. Unser Schreibzeug arbeitet mit an unseren Gedanken, an exhibition realized by Medien.Kunst.Tirol at Kunstraum Innsbruck, 2013. 40


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GLITCH

Unser Schreibzeug arbeitet mit an unseren Gedanken A Medien.Kunst.Tirol exhibition at: KUNSTRAUM INNSBRUCK May 18 – June 29, 2013

With Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Sylvia Eckermann, Thomas Feuerstein, Christina Goestl, Gerald Nestler, Axel Stockburger, Szely. Curated by Maximilian Thoman and Gerald Nestler.

In the 1980s and 1990s, media and sound artists appropriated technical glitches – a provocation for engineers and technicians – for creative uses, turning these marginal disorders into an investigative aesthetics of communication technology. In recent years, glitches have turned from mere errors, production faults or transmission failures to occurrences that increasingly trigger systemic catastrophes. By adopting the term social glitch (G. Nestler), the exhibition project extends former artistic approaches by re-appropriating the technical term glitch (denoting a disruption or malfunction of electronic data) to conduct a wider investigation of technological malfunctions that affect social systems, institutions and practices. From this perspective, malfunction does not only refer to random or human error and technical defect but includes automation inadequacies and failures of algorithmic analysis and decision-making as well as wilful negligence, predatory schemes and wanton destruction that pass through code. 44


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While the artistic projects on show concentrate on a wide range of social glitches experenced today, they are connected by their critical involvement with such appearances. As the sheer magnitude of constantly occuring glitches trigger socially eruptive moments, Friedrich Nietzsche’s early and originally affirmative remark „Unser Schreibzeug arbeitet mit an unseren Gedanken“ (our writing tools are also working on our thoughts, 1882) reveals a more problematic nature of hybrid, complex and potentially disastrous relations and interests. To name but a few, they oscillate between quantitative thought and technological implementation, rational choice and financialization, biopolitics and political (e.g. legal) as well as economic (e.g. austerity) measures. The production of risk and the occurrence of contingent events .meet in an environment in which social glitches are far from harmless. Rather, they produce effects that threaten individuals as well as whole societies. The marginal disorders that spawned countless investigations into the aesthetics of communication technology in former decades of artistic practice gave way to a delusional disorder on a global scope that needs be radically addressed today in all its appearances.

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SKEWED ENTRAILS

The Non-Space of Money, or, the Pseudo-Common Oracle of Risk Production Intro: A living being What is at stake when we think about money and its relation to the commons? When we address this question we need to begin, it seems to me, with the places where money moves – the markets. Therefore, I’d like to begin by quoting from a conversation between a trader and the sociologist Karin Knorr Cetina: “Trader: You know it’s an invisible hand, the market is always right, it’s a life form that has being in its own right. You know, in a sort of Gestalt sort of way (…) it has form and meaning. Karin Knorr: It has form and meaning which is independent of you? You can’t control it, is that the point? T: Right. Exactly, exactly! K: Most of the time it’s quite dispersed, or does it gel for you? T: Ah, that’s why I say it has life, it has life in and of itself, you know, sometimes it all comes together, and sometimes it’s all just sort of dispersed, and arbitrary, and random, and directionless and lacking cohesiveness. K: But you see it as a third thing? Or do you mean the other person? T: As a greater being. K: (…) T: No, I don’t mean the other person; I mean the being as a whole. And the being is the foreign exchange market – and we are a sum of our parts, or it is a sum of its parts.” It might sound odd, to say the least, to call the market a “being”, a living organism. One would rather think of it as a network, a place of exchange and abstraction, a normalizing apparatus, or a capitalist revenant of Hobbes’ Behemoth. Especially today, when markets are less and less populated by actual human beings but instead are driven by algorithms – mathematical equations that account for 80% of transactions in most of the major markets today. But if we take this pseudo-common notion of a living being serious as a description of what the market has come to be, in order to recover ground from where to query the idea of a money commons, we need to critically address both the 48


systemic heart of today’s financial capitalism – the mathematics of probability theory and their application in derivative markets – and its physical heart: Have our bodies, our organs, and our minds been turned into what I would call an updated version of the colonial plantation? Or differently, are we still the owners of our organs – of our productive, communicative and sensitive qualities – or have they been exploited to a level where we are organs without bodies, that is, creative energy providers with very limited potential to actualize ourselves in the full sense of the meaning – in a total reversal of the famous notion of the “body without organs” that Gilles Deleuze adopted from Antonin Artaud and later developed further with Felix Guattari? “The enemy is the organism,” the authors of Mille Plateaux write, “the Body-without-Organs is opposed not to the organs but to that organization of the organs called the organism.”1 A further question tackles the notion of being in the sense of acting in presence. The financialization of the last two decades and the current debt crisis are widely interpreted as trapping people in a gridlock concerning future opportunities and possibilities (which accounts for the darker meaning of ‘securities’). However, by exploiting the future, financial capitalism is actually annihilating the present as well. It cuts into the actual relations between people as they are happening. The double-sided meaning of a term such as bond that on the one hand refers to engaged and close relationship and on the other to debt obligation has suffered brutal coercion towards the latter. And thus, while we feel the constraints of debt that are pervading all aspects of daily life and are tearing apart the vestiges of the common body, we also feel the urgency to revive relation building and human action that happen at present, in the lived empowerment of communality. Given the space available, I will only delineate a very raw picture of a few aspects of the pseudo-commons of the current money system and its repercussions. I confine myself to three narratives. Albeit quite distinct they share a common undercurrent: Firstly, by referring to David McNelly I trace the capitalist imagery of the body; Secondly, money and the limits of market exchange as regards the commons, the gift and debt with reference to Marcel Hénaff and David Graeber; Thirdly, the oracle as the construction site of the future, which at first might seem odd to a modern mind, as modernity prides itself of having exposed 1 Deleuze and Guattari, Mille Plateaux, 1987, p. 158 49


such practices as superstitious and preposterous to reason. And finally, by combining these narrative lines I hope to present an admittedly rudimentary outline of what I believe a money commons needs to consider.

I. Organs without body 1816 was termed the “Year Without a Summer” or the “Poverty Year”. Caused by a low in solar activity in combination with the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, the most severe summer climate abnormalities resulted amongst other things in major food shortages across the Northern hemisphere, from Canada and the Unites States across Europe and China. This darkening of the atmosphere was also the cause for an altogether different event: “’Incessant rainfall” Mary Shelley wrote, during a “wet, ungenial summer”2 forced her, Lord Byron, John Polidori and friends to stay indoors for much of their holiday at Lake Geneva. One evening, they decided to find out who could write the scariest story. The outcome of this contest was Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus” and Lord Byron’s “A Fragment”, which Polidori later rewrote as “The Vampyre”, the romantic blueprint for the genre of the living dead. David McNally3, in his recent book “Monsters of the Market” (2012), elucidates that both Frankenstein’s creature and the imagery of the living dead are stories profoundly linked with early industrial capitalism. Frankenstein’s creature, he writes, was a mirror image of the havoc industrialization had on the working class. Assembled from body parts Frankenstein stole from graveyards, the ‘creation’ of the monster sheds light on a dark but lucrative practice of the day when anatomists and other professions capitalized on the body parts of those hanged from the gallows.4 McNally concludes that Shelley’s readers knew very well what this meant: Those executed were often sentenced to death for nothing more than stealing food. After the execution they were not simply buried but dissected, an act that was part of the sentence. This lead to riots under the gallows where working class people fought for the bodies of their deceased as an act of resistance: At least in death the bodies of the working poor that were dissected for the profitable exploitation of a 2 Quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Shelley 3 A speech by David McNally can be found here: www.youtube.com/

watch?v=nNoQ8RryYOE 4 McNelly ascribes the origins of the term “body snatcher” to this historical horror. 50


capitalist division of labor should remain intact. After assembling the monster, Frankenstein ran electricity through the parts and thus made alive a new creature. According to McNally, this is another image of the rise of capitalism and industrial revolution – the assemblage of a new class, the working class, by machinery, electricity and human energy. But for Shelley, McNelly continues, redemption is not impossible: Frankenstein’s monster has speech and learns to read, and one of the books the author mentioned is Volney’s “Ruins of Empires”, one of the most radical socialist, anti-racist and anti-slavery texts of the era. Towards the end of the book, sailors mutiny on a ship in the arctic sea: Only revolt can prevent further human tragedies. The living dead incorporated in the zombie is a product of Haiti, or SaintDomingue as it was then called. Far from being the romantic image of the vampire, the zombie mirrors the experiences of Negro slave plantation laborers. It is, McNally tells us, “the life-less being, the living-dead, a human being stripped of identity, memory, consciousness, and subjectivity,” and therefore forcefully evokes the image of capitalist exploitation that subjects the slaves to spend their lives as if they were dead to themselves. Mere body parts made to work as physical energy, they produce the profits of colonialists. As a human being reduced to mere flesh, the zombie is the antithesis of creation: creas means flesh or meat in Greek; creation is the making of flesh, incarnation. Ultimately, though, the “zombies awaken and strike back. They bring anarchy and destruction on polite, civilized, policed, bourgeois society.” With this statement, McNelly doesn’t refer to the latest Hollywood remake or cheap copy of the zombie story but to real events and historic fact: Haiti, a French dominion, was not just the most profitable colony of the day. It was also the site of the only successful slave revolution in modern history. Inspired by the French revolution and frustrated by the fact that the new rights had not been granted to them, their revolution not only defeated the French but also all subsequent attempts by the Spanish and British colonialists to conquer this ‘treasure island’. It is therefore not surprising that the living dead became the emblematic figure of the rebel monsters in the struggles after the crisis of 2008. Both stories, reflecting the perverse alienation of people by capitalist and colonialist exploitation, mourn but at the same time animate the mutilated body. This same human body, however, constitutes the disputed commons of an 51


altogether different battleground, the register of law. The integrity of the body is, after all, an indispensable and inalienable right of (common) law. Some of its fundamental premises are liability for debt and the inevitable fact of death. The latter might seem odd but becomes clear when we take into account a further body, one that came into being in the 19th century as a construct of law. The corporation came into being not only in stark contrast to but in fact by an act of appropriation of and capitalization on the alien body of the slave. Unlike the living body, the corporate body doesn’t die a natural death and therefore transcends human life. Moreover, it is the embodiment of a hierarchical organism whose cells are the very scattered bodies of labor henceforth assembled in a new legal entity. The monster Frankenstein brought to life who died in an act of self-immolation, a sovereign act of liberation as well as empathy with humanity, was resurrected as a machine, or rather a ‘technology of legal science’. The corporate body took ‘liberty’ and consumed the civil rights of personhood by a contortion of the 14th amendment to the US constitution, initially adopted to provide citizenship and civil rights to former slaves. This is no trivial fact, as it constitutes a crucial moment in privatizing enclosures out of the commons. Since Roman times and the origin of Western law, juridical persons were not granted the same rights as human beings, simply because they could not die and therefore seek to accumulate power and wealth beyond the reach of law itself. The 19th century gave birth to a number of beings that despite their stark contrasts could be described as ‘organs without body’. And I wonder if the idea of the pursuit of happiness, so dear to the American dream in its ideal of the commons realized by individuals, has not been embodied in the nightmare of a corporate body proper, a commercial counter-image of communality (also, it was the corporation that exported it globally)? Does the pursuit of happiness imply acceptance of an ‘evolutionary ladder’ that leads from the resurrection of the living dead to the transcendence of the natural body to the entitlement to partake in the pseudo-common surplus-heaven of capitalism by incorporating into legal persons? Or simpler, does the pursuit of happiness in the face of capitalism require individuals to incorporate? And to further extend McNally’s narrative: Those who have not attained corporate personhood for themselves, do they partake in corporate happiness by a fraction, that is, by a volatile contract that regulates their service as a self-colonizing resource in which they reassemble their organs on demand? We will return to this question later when we try to understand how to conceptualize these organs without body 52


who at the same time ‘live’ as autonomous, self-responsible corpses.

II. The commons of gift culture vs. the pseudo-commons of money exchange While economists in general agree on the necessity of markets, there are degrees of acceptance as regards interference of the state. Roughly speaking, this is exemplified by the approaches of the two arguably most influential proponents of the field, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August Hayek. While Keynes welcomed fiscal and monetary measures by the democratic state to balance inadequacies in recession and depression, Hayek trusted price-changes as delivering information and favored free market exchange between profit-geared individuals (which mainly means corporations) without interference by the state, except for provisions taken on e.g. money supply, contracts, and property rights, all crucial for corporate bodies. Both main adversaries of today’s economics5, of course, never challenged capitalism as such and knew well enough that it had always existed as a state-finance complex. Keynes trusted government to keep the economy afloat while for Hayek the medium is the market, to paraphrase McLuhan. They were both the heirs of an economic thought that Karl Marx had actually deconstructed long before, in Capital Vol. 1:

“[…] the historical movement which changes the producers into waged workers, appears on the one hand as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But on the other hand these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production and all the guarantees of existence offered by the old feudal arrangements.”

In his speech “The end of Capitalism?,” David Harvey describes the distinction as follows: “Money is not capital, commodities are not capital, the buying and selling of labor power is not capital; what is capital is a class relation between capital and labor in the act of production that allows capital to extract a surplus from the work of the labor.”6 For a money commons, we therefore need to think outside both the boxes of the state as a kind of last resort and the markets as the embodiment of perfect competition and optimal wealth 5 An unusual proof can be found here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0nERTFo-Sk 6 David Harvey, www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYzKsiev43Q&feature=related 53


creation, especially as we are confronted with a technopolitical state-finance complex with neither the ‘individual’ nor the state in a position of authority. So, what is money and were are its boundaries, if there are any? In the historic account – or the “fairy tale”, as anthropologist David Graeber likes to call it – that is still heavily leaned on in economics, markets develop from a premodern and rather underdeveloped exchange termed barter – the direct exchange of goods and services without the intermediary of money. In this view, only money by flowing through free markets is able to allocate resources, discover fair prices and allow participants to engage in rational exchange. But when economists speak of markets, they seldom mean the local farmer’s market around the corner with its personal relations and credit granting. What they refer to, instead, are those time-prone transaction spaces where goods, services and information are allocated on the principle of supply and demand in order to establish prices by rational profit-seeking individuals under the preliminary of perfect competition. Personal attachment and recognition are irrational acts in such an environment. At the same time, markets today are not only sites of transaction but have to a large degree become computerized systems in which trading itself is at centre of attention and time rules over space. Financial transactions reside in their own world of microseconds where proprietary equations are recalculated and risk estimates recalibrated. Today, the methods applied are less dependent on economics than on physics and mathematics7. In the ‘science fiction’ termed derivative markets, money is not simply a neutral medium of exchange. It is a commodity, or, in other words, a contractual body of exchange. It’s erratic, inconceivable movements that follow random walks are dissected in ever more complex and refined algorithms that punctuate the void of the unknown to render fragile surfaces on which to tread, as if the future and the realm of uncertainty were a tenuously physical, material plane. What are the paths that are carved out of uncertainty? What are the traces that are made and followed, produced and queried at the very same time? We will see that these questions are more related to those above than we might think at first glance. Before we can answer these questions we need to briefly address the rela7 Today, finance is to quite some extent a field of mathematicians and physicians. This indicates a radical change in the ideology of the future: From the 1960s and 70s utopia of colonizing interstellar space to the colonization of future time. 54


tions and affiliations that money constructs, in order to deconstruct the fairy tale of the origin of markets and social ubiquity of money. The anthropologist Marcel Hénaff, in his profound treatise “The Price of Truth. Gift, money and philosophy” (2010), delivers a striking comparison for the economies of gift, barter and money: Gift cultures, he postulates, are bound to human relationships and kinship, while barter and money economies are diametrically opposed. They are defined by excluding any kind of personal relationship, as this would compromise the underlying reason for their existence: to facilitate exchange with people who are outside the bonds that constitute the body of a specific commons.8 For Hénaff, relations between people cannot be made equal and turned into a corollary of money, as the bonds are part of the reciprocal rituals of a community. But exchanges of goods or services exist that need a medium of exchange accepted by parties that share no deeper relation with one another or because relations are actually to be avoided. Gift cultures, however, argues Hénaff by referring to Marcel Maus, Bronislaw Malinowski and others, differ form economic exchange because nothing is directly given back in exchange for the offering. And, the offering is not transferable. Still, they are reciprocative not only because the gift has to be redeemed at some later stage but also because the bonds between people who materialize these gifts nurture these cultures. Hénaff shows that even if money is introduced, it becomes part of the gift culture as a token of reciprocity without monetary value. It is never transferred, i.e. the money-gift is not returned to the moneyexchange cycle, as this would be tantamount to violating the fundamental premise of gift culture – the recognition of the other. The economies of barter, money and gift exist along each other in a clearly distinct way. In Hénaff’s own words: “When equitable exchanges of goods are involved, gift-exchange relationships must give way to commercial relationships. There is a precise converse to this requirement: commercial relations are not capable of creating bonds between humans and cannot aim to do so.” (346) Hénaff therefore argues that we need to draw a line between these forms of exchange and proposes the term “ceremonial money” (296) for gift offerings. This clearly shows that there is no evolution from gift to barter to money. The history upheld since the days of Adam Smith is a myth. The modes of gift, barter and money exchange have existed along each other and still do, despite the current hegemonic power of the money regime. Hénaff 8 David Graeber goes even further and derives the origin of money as coinage from payment of mercenary soldiers. 55


clearly shows where the stakes are between credit and debt as forms of recognition as well as contract:

[…] the commercial relationship is not a priori the polar opposite of the gift-exchange relationship. The two are not situated at the same level. One is not the negation of the other, but there are circumstances in which one must prevail and the other give way. Their stakes are heterogeneous and yet constantly connected. When the purpose is to compensate work, compensation must be achieved in abidance with the agreement that has been conducted. When the aim is to express esteem or to reinforce a relationship, the appropriate means is gift exchange. There is a contractual economy, but it cannot be claimed that there is a gift-exchange economy. […] The wages paid are a right, not a favor. They involve an objective relationship, not an emotional bond. They are governed by norms of justice, not by the generosity of employers. (381-382).

This social contract, it seems, was severely violated in the debt crisis, and this is not simply a breach of decorum. Rights are becoming favors granted to a shrinking number of people. The archeologist David Graeber illustrates convincingly in his bestseller “Debt, The first 5000 years” that debt, the current medium of social ruin and profit maximization, historically precedes money. He shows that it was a moral concept before it became an economic one. And this means that communities existed that knew reciprocal gift exchange before debt became a quantified and transferable commodity exchanged with money as unit of account:

The first markets form on the fringes of [Mesopotamian temple] complexes and appear to operate largely on credit, using the temples’ units of account. But this gave the merchants and temple administrators and other well-off types the opportunity to make consumer loans to farmers, and then, if say the harvest was bad, everybody would start falling into debt -traps. This was the great social evil of antiquity – families would have to start pawning off their flocks, fields and before long, their wives and children would be taken off into debt peonage. […] Rulers would regularly conclude the only way to prevent complete social breakdown was to declare a clean slate or ‘washing of the tablets,’ they’d cancel all consumer debt and just start over. In fact, the first recorded word for ‘freedom’ in any human language is the Sumerian amargi, a word for debt-freedom, and by extension freedom more generally, which literally means ‘return to mother,’ since when they declared a clean slate, all the debt peons would get to go home.9 9 see: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/08/what-is-debt-%E2%80%93-aninterview-with-economic-anthropologist-david-graeber.html 56


The underlying narrative sounds strikingly familiar to the current situation, except for the idea of a clean slate that seems far beyond the grasp of those in power today. Even the living dead reverberate as hostages of debt bondage. Money, the ostensibly neutral medium of exchange is not only beyond the reciprocal bonds of the commons. It actually ruins them in order to commodify each and every aspect of life, subjecting it to contracts that are exchanged with the volatile price of supply and demand. We could therefore argue that in such a society – or econociety, to call it by a more proper name – a shift has happened in the relations of market economy and gift relationship. What I mean is that the banking crisis as a market crisis can be read as a turning point towards a perverted gift-relation that we usually call the debt crisis. Why? Because modern contractual market capitalism – or neoliberalism – went bankrupt, which not only means that it was unable to pay its debts but became unable to redeem the contracts it had entered. The privatization of profits and the subsequent socialization of debt are tantamount to veering the bond of debt into a financialization of relationships. This scheme could be termed a “construction of ruins”, in which the capitalist financial system was actually rescued from collapse by an imposed “favor”, a forced “generosity” not only of taxpayers but entire populations that were not declared too big to fail. This goes along the above-mentioned ruining of democratic and labor rights, the dismantling of the welfare state and a quantification of gift relations on an unheard of level. Metaphorically speaking, the English term “gift” – a present – metamorphosed into the German word “Gift” – poison. Rational exchange has turned into emotional bondage and the staggering amounts of debt no longer conform to the juridical layout of contractual exchange – a fact proven by the quantitative easing measures of central banks that are ongoing simply because the money market as such, the direct lending of money between banks, has been virtually absent since the default of Lehman Brothers. What we see today is therefore more akin to a scheme we could call the capitalization of ceremonial money as “a unit of reciprocal offering” (270) – the destruction of credit. What we are confronted with is a perverted money commons in which the corporate body devours the natural person. In the words of David Graeber, “Instead of creating some sort of overarching institution to protect debtors, they […] protect creditors. They essentially declare (in defiance of all traditional economic logic) that no debtor should ever be allowed to default. Needless to say the result is catastrophic. We are experiencing something that looks like what the ancients were most afraid of: a population of debtors skating at 57


the edge of disaster.” This “skating at the edge of disaster” corresponds to the colonization of the future in financial markets where low money margins lever high stakes of risk and the speed of high frequency trading squeezes the moment of presence into the realm of microseconds.

III. The contemporary oracle, or the construction of futures at consultation When people try to describe the incessant gamble in the financial markets, they often resort to the metaphor of the casino. Although this comparison has its charm (unfortunately, we lack the space to delve into some striking examples) the casino, as a game of chance, does not help to understand the utter urgency of what is at stake for the future and the present. In “Il Regno e la Gloria” (2007), Giorgio Agamben extends Foucault’s investigations of governmentality by referring to the “anarchic” – the foundationless – condition of the oikonomia that spins around an ontological void, constituting a state of exception.10 The latest incorporation of oikonomia, financial capitalism, has been utilizing the fictive reflections of probability theory to trade risk and exploit the future. In derivative markets, money is not simply a neutral medium of exchange but, as we said, a commodity, a contractual body of exchange. Its erratic, inconceivable movements are dissected in ever more complex products – the derivative contracts – that punctuate, so to say, the void of the unknown becoming, rendering volatile surfaces on which the price avatar treads, as if the realm of uncertainty, the contingent future were a material plane. The ‘market being’, therefore, lives in the twilight zone between today and the morrow haunting a specter that has always been concealed to human knowledge, whether we apply complex mathematical models or read the entrails of slaughtered animals. This human quest for capturing the future allows us to examine the market beyond its usual conceptualization as a modern incorporation of games of chance. The question I want to sketch out in broad outline is whether the pseudo-common utopia of the perfect market and its current main line of production, derivative risk potentials, are to be conceived as the 10 Matteo Pasquinelli criticized Agamben’s approach in To Have Done with the Dispositif of God! On the Archeology of Norm in Canguilhem, Foucault and Agamben, which can be found here: http://matteopasquinelli.com/ dispositif-canguilhem-foucault-agamben. 58


contemporary revenant of a practice that not only precedes modernity but seemed to have been obliterated by it: the oracle. Martti Nissinen, in a text on ancient Greek divination gives us the following account: “From a cognitive point of view […] divination can be seen as a system of making sense of the world, dealing with social or cognitive uncertainty, obtaining otherwise inaccessible information and to get things done, to make things right and to keep them that way … Divination tends to be futureoriented, not necessarily in the sense of foretelling future events, but as a method of tackling the anxiety about the insecurity of life and coping with the risk brought about by human ignorance.”11 This reasoning that divination is less about foretelling and more about risk and uncertainty seems to me to give evidence of a rational approach of actors in their relations to the unknown (future), even if it means consulting a god. Xenophon, in his “Recollections of Socrates” quotes the Athenian philosopher:

Those intending to control houses or cities […] needed to use divination. For he considered that to be able to work as a carpenter, […] or a farmer or a ruler, or to be able to examine such crafts, or to calculate, or to manage or to govern – all things like these were learnable and could be grasped by human reason. But the most important aspects of these things, he said, the gods kept to themselves, and these were in no way clear to men. For it is not clear to the person planting a field well who will harvest it; not to the person building a house well who will live in it; […] nor to the man skilled in politics whether it will benefit him to take a leading role in the city.12

Even though Socrates speaks about divine oracle, he tells the story of derivative markets in a nutshell and we can conclude, in short, that the underlying ideology of the market continues this ancient practice in a modern guise. The contemporary oracle of derivative futures is at the heart of the symbolic universe of societies meshed in global econociety. Adam Smith’s remnant of the superhuman god, the invisible hand, might even have a longer, submerged history pointing to Zeus and Apollo. Comparing Socrates’ claim with the new paradigm, we can also conclude that it has been thoroughly reversed. Absolute truth as the sphere 11 Martti Nissinen, “Prophecy and Omen Divination: Two Sides of the Same Coin”, in:

Amar Annus (Ed.), Divination and Interpretation of Signs In the Ancient World, p. 341 12 Xenophon, Recollections of Socrates (Memoranilia), 1.1.7-9 59


of god(s) has been replaced by absolute contingency. Divination as the mantic rationalization of unknown events has been substituted by mathematics of probability. Derivative markets – descending from an older socio-cultural model devoted to the quest for truth – claim to master the contingent realm of uncertainty. Truth has ceased to be the realm of a god. Truth resides in the realm of the price-discovery avatar. Today, the bottomless pits of the market place are the Omphalos of our world. In these non-spaces of the contemporary oracle (the ontological void Agamben refers to) the specters of new futures are produced at every split second. Here, in the loss of the present moment that is sacrificed for the very next potential future lies the systemic navel of alienation, a nave that appears as a black (w) hole absorbing prospects and expectations. Our decisions have become derivative of a financial capitalist dystopia. We have become the subtle meat (creation, Greek creas = meat, flesh) of cognitive capitalism, its neuronal resource. The derivative oracle is the non-space of contemporary sovereignty; the transcendental law of absolute contingency that becomes immanent in the (mis)management of the future. Thus, derivative markets today fabricate the techne of the future, expanding the void of foundation to a void of potential. The dystopian scope of such a ‘theology’ does not, however, confine itself to the future, or, the realm of human agency emerging. It stretches ‘back’ to another time, a time ‘outside’ chronology: the present. In the financial oracle geared towards contingent future moments, presence is only real as the technopolitical passage of price discovery. Obliterated by the hegemony of a contorted idea of the future, it is the very experience of the subjective realness of the present that is truly at stake.

IV. The face To reinvigorate practices of the common (for the common is neither ‘new’ nor ‘innovative’), I suggest addressing the issue of presence as experienced time and common space against a hegemonic regime of time. The exploitation of contingent becoming by enclosures of possession does not happen without constrictions or struggles, as we all know. In the process, ruins are constructed13 of possible worlds holding potential futures by equating 13 Contrary to the ruin as a collateral damage, with “construction of ruins” I denote a

neoliberal strategy to capitalize on the invalidation of existing knowledge traditions. 60


the world in the face of price. But to mend our ‘skewed entrails’ and body parts, we need to go beyond a mere rearrangement of exchange. A money commons would have to respect the different kinds of bonds that are akin to what Hénaff terms “ceremonial money” of reciprocity, instead of the mere exchange of goods out of self-interest. But to do this, we need to understand what actually gets lost in the exploitation of bodies, exchanges, and the future. I will confine myself to one thing that seems to hold potential. It is the event as the encounter with the other. As I said above, financial markets equate the world in the face of price. Here, I would like to briefly go back to Marcel Hénaff and to his reading of Emmanuel Levinas’ “Totality and Infinity” (1969). Levinas asks: Who is the other? And he answers: “The other always happens. He is pure event. He always comes from elsewhere, unexpectedly, unpredictably, not in any accidental sense but by definition. ‘The absolutely new is the other’” (TI 219). “How can any relationship with the other be possible, then? It can be so precisely because it happens, and it happens only because the other’s otherness is not already given in the sameness of our subjectivity. According to Levinas, what makes otherness happen as an encounter is the presence of the human face. ‘The face is present in its refusal to be contained. In this sense it cannot be comprehended, that is encompassed’” (TI 194)… “It resists totality and manifests infinity.” (398) The stark contrast to what I explained above might allow us to sense the brutality and violence that capitalist exploitation must exert in order to violate the encounter with the face of the other. The commodification of everyone is to de-face – dehumanize – the other, is ultimately to destroy dignity in the face of price. When we ‘encounter’ the emergence of prices, price discovery becomes the paradigmatic event of enclosure. This implies that alienation is tantamount to averting the gaze from the other. The derivative contract that binds the organs without body capturing potential futures in a self-colonizing exchange – and concerning the questions above I propose to call this the Human Derivative – is the face that is substituted by the price, the incommensurable that is bend to the mathematics of quantification in the exploitation of profit. The human resource – the capitalist fetish of the rational self – is commodity form turning into waste form. “Our obligation to the other,” Hénaff continues, “originates from this very presence. The ethical obligation that arises from the encounter with the other, 61


the unconditional obligation to which the infinity of his face testifies, does not amount to a formal obligation but to an obligation to give – to give ourselves.” From the point of the face, the entire body comes into view, not as a mutilated but as an intact body, which implies the infrangible body of the law. This is not to say that there is no place for the exchange of goods via money. Rather, it leads to acknowledging that to give ourselves introduces a reciprocal relationship. In order to burst the bonds of debt obligation, we don’t need the “freedom to govern ourselves but the freedom of granted recognition and shared respect.” (401) Beyond facilitating distribution and access to the exchange of money, goods and services outside the bourgeois profit maxim, a money commons could therefore be the medium in which the contingent but real presence of our actions and relations is the open process of reciprocal acknowledgement. Two final remarks: 1. Oikonomias Attempts to find new ways to make, produce, disseminate, and connect in a self-sufficient manner as well as in the spirit of fair sharing, oppose the contemporary forces of the market – the ideological term that has become the equivalent to economy. But when we look at emerging forms of the commons it seems that in recent years a remarkable move has been happening. While Aristotle’s treatment of the term oikonomia gave ancient Athenians a kind of blueprint on how to deal with the management of the house, the classic philosopher of antiquity clearly separated the acts pertaining to the house and the state, the oikonomia and the polis. When the market today has come to replace the state (or is its double), turning it into a proprietary polis by a politics of financial power on a global scale, the question arises: Can we still refer to this as an economy proper? What if the market was not only a very limited and limiting economy but, more radically, has actually ceased to be an economy (an oikonomia)? Moreover, wouldn’t it make sense to posit that it is in the practices and conceptualizations of the commons that oikonomia finds new ground and new sense? Here we find economies (I deliberately use the plural) that are built or happen – on purpose or by accident – akin to the original meaning of the Greek term “taking-care of the house”. It seems to me that we encounter an underlying economic commons that is a truly a social commons: The urgency and necessity to radically experiment with and redefine our notions of the economic relations. Contrary to Aristotle’s time, of course, the house is not a clearly fixed and immobile entity of slaves and 62


masters, land and produce. These new (or sometimes ancient) economies are more complex, more ephemeral and more fleeting. From subsistence agriculture, DIY, immaterial labor to digital commons, these experiments evade (or escape privatization by) the capitalist market. While the pandemonium of financial risk production as an ‘eternal credit line’ must be dismissed, there are indeed risks worth taking, one of which we could call “risk of solidarity.” Taking on this risk, we could transform the alienating transactions on the common body of our future to common political actions. To do this, we might need to conceptualize, create and establish oikonomias that account for not only one idea of the welfare of the house but acknowledge the existence of multifarious practices. The economy of scarcity and the austerity regime pervading the discussions about the economy today must be attacked and there are an abundance of approaches on many different layers for many different reasons and purposes that are already doing this. In contrast to the finance-economy duopoly that pervades our worldview as if it were the natural order of things in the social life of people, to paraphrase Appadurai’s book title, we need to formulate a framework for polymorphic economies. In such an oikonomia, the polis, i.e. the political field embracing, amongst other things, these economies would thus be the place, the agora, where different forms of commons exist together and voice is given, found and rewarded in multiple ways. 2. A technology of sabotage and mediation And finally, a more technological and paratactical remark: Derivatives are an invention of financial markets to exploit not only risks but weaknesses, as has been stated by economist Robert J. Shiller14 who is certainly no enemy of the capitalist market. Still, they are somewhat distinct as they are not defined as property as such but are contractual relations. The difference might seem small but could be fundamental if we look at derivatives from the perspective of a technowledge. As with other algorithms, it is the uses we apply them to and not the ideology attached that unlock their actual potential. As a technology of the future, derivatives constitute a methodology to deal with emerging and volatile behaviors in complex situations. The financial engineer and philosopher Elie Ayache, in his attempt to overthrow the reign of probability theory and its dominance in markets, reintroduces the term “contingent claim”, which we could describe as a kind of written testament, a collection of wills shared between two or more people (parties) opened after the ‘death’ of 14 Robert J. Shiller, Finance and the Good Society, Princeton, 2012, p. 78-80 63


the option (at the end of its agreed lifetime). For Ayache, this allows for a negotiation of future events in the face of price directly, on spot. These claims are evoked by the constant price changes leading to continuous recalibration, which again bear new claims. Thus, Ayache argues, any event, even the most outlandish, is dealt with in the marketplace with the contractual claims written by market makers. Writing, to him, is an act of producing the future at the moment, in potentiality. It also serves as evidence, as the forensic object at actualization when these option-life testaments are opened. We could picture them as algorithmic sense organs that capture the miniscule movements in-between events and in-between transactions by the agents on the trading floor. David Harvey in the talk mentioned above speaks about how we could appropriate and take over what corporations have developed:

[...] it’s not hard at all to imagine that capacity of centralized planning how it currently exists in corporations – Wal-Mart, for example does it beau tifully – it’s not hard to image taking that over and turning it into a social purpose instead of turning it into mere profiteering. And when I say this, people are saying, you like Wal-Mart? And my answer is, well, they’ve come up with some techniques we can use. And we shouldn’t run away from talking about using those techniques just because Wal-Mart has it. We should really study those things and figure out how it works.”

Could something similar be done with derivatives? Would it make sense to think about reprogramming and recontextualizing this technology? Can we subvert their capitalist source code and appropriate them in the fields of social and common action, a mediation that is no less complex, uncertain and contingent than market transactions? Could we become capable of applying a technology for contingent sharing in the face of the other, instead of in the face of price? The underlying of such a Speech Act Algorithm would not be a stock or other property asset but a specific cause that leads to common action from the desires and/or needs of people. What is lacking, though, is a philosophy of contingency that counters the paradigmatic mathematics of probability theory as it works financial markets and locks in the future. Might this allow us to craft a notion of contingency based on fundamental assumptions of the commons and activated in the present moments of creating use-value by shared activities? Given that an oikonomia of the commons also needs to come to terms with complexity and uncertainty, ‘anarchic derivatives,’ or in other words, algorithms for recognition and sharing might one day facilitate a 64


financial (i.e. resource allocation) copyleft for collective reciprocal reward and protection in a wide array of applications. At the same time they could produce an algorithmic creativity of sabotage, to take a term from Matteo Pasquinelli’s Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons (2008) against the capitalist paradigm of ‘creative destruction’ and exploitation.

Bibliography Giorgio Agamben, Il Regno e la Gloria, Torino (2007) Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis (1987) David Graeber, Debt, The first 5000 years, New York (2011) Marcel Hénaff, The Price of Truth. Gift, money and philosophy, Stanford (2010) Karin Knorr Cetina, “From Pipes to Scopes: The Flow Architecture of Financial Markets,“ in: Distinktion - Scandinavian journal of social theory 7 (2003), pp. 7-23 Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, Pittsburgh (1969) David McNally, Monsters of the Market, Boston (2012) Matteo Pasquinelli, Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, Rotterdam (2008) This paper was presented at the Paratactic Commons conference, amber Art and Technology Festival, November 2012, and published in the ensuing catalogue, 2013. 65


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CARGO CARRY CULT

Charged voyages in algo measure Lecture performance by Gerald Nestler with contributions by Tav Falco, May 22, 2013 WWTBD - What Would Thomas Bernhard Do Kunsthalle Wien and Wiener Festwochen Curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen and Lucas Gehrmann, CathÊrine Hug May 17 – 26, 2013 While the visual stimuli of financial market transactions appear anaemic, their mathematically generated but nevertheless erratic moments exalt the imagination. Perpetually seeking dissolution, surreal dichotomies of relationships open up between 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 establish a social event horizon beyond human perception. The aesthetics of codes below-threshold conceal an elaborate fiction. It glorifies mind and body as volatile but quantifiable neuronal objects. Thus, neither of us is present at such dizzying heights but as potential resource. The automated crest they call the future consumes the present before the moment emerges. And all image erased. 67


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Special thanks to: Tav Falco and Lucas Gehrmann 70


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COUNTERING CAPITULATION From Automated Participation to Renegade Solidarity High-frequency trading and the forensic analysis of the Flash Crash, May 6, 2010 Artistic research project and single channel video, 2013-14, produced with the support of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

Financial forensics and the double figure of the expert witness

The Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 was the biggest one-day market decline in history. In it, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged about 1000 points, 9 per cent of its value only to recover those losses within minutes. A forensic investigation of this financial event, performed by the data analyst Nanex, revealed that, in contrast to claims by US authorities, which put the blame on human trading, it were in fact trade orders executed automatically by algorithms that caused the crash. Nanex noticed evidence of market activity at fractions of milliseconds by analyzing the Flash Crash at a resolution far below conventional data records, which usually show one-minute trading intervals. Computer-based high-frequency trading is beyond the capacity of human experience or action. In order to support their claim, Nanex used otherwise secret trading data provided by Waddell & Reed, the mutual fund blamed for the crash. Here the traditional role of the expert witness combines the forensic analyst and the renegade company providing information by transgressing the industry’s unwritten law of secrecy. 72


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COUNTERING CAPITULATION was presented at:

FORENSIS FORENSIS is a co-production by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, funded by the Capital Cultural Fund, and by Forensic Architecture, ERC-funded research project based at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin Curated by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman. March 15 2014 - May 5, 2014

The exhibition included contributions by: Lawrencence Abu Hamdan, Nabil Ahmed, Maayan Amir, Gabriel CuĂŠllar, Daar (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, And Eyal Weizman), Grupa Spomenik / The Monument Group (Damir Arsenijevic, Ana Bezic, Pavle Levi, Jelena Petrovic, Branimir Stojanovic, Milica Tomic), Ayesha Hameed, Charles Heller, Helene Kazan, Thomas Keenan, Steffen Kraemer, Adrian Lahoud, Armin Linke, Modelling Kivalina, Model Court (Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Lorenzo Pezzani, Oliver Rees), Gerald Nestler, Godofredo Pereira, Nicola Perugini, Alessandro Petti, Lorenzo Pezzani, Cesare P. R. Romano, Susan Schuppli, Francesco Sebregondi, Situ Research, Caroline Sturdy Colls, Territorial Agency ( John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi RĂśnnskog), Paulo Tavares, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Eyal Weizman, Ines Weizman. 74


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Financial Forensics and the double Figure oF the expert witness gerald nestler

Financial Forensics and the double Figure oF the expert witness gerald nestler

the Flash crash of May 6, 2010 was the biggest one-day market decline in history. it saw the dow Jones industrial average plunge by about 1,000 points—9 percent of its total value—only to recover those losses within minutes. a forensic investigation of this financial event conducted by the data analyst nanex revealed that, in contrast to claims by us authorities, which put the blame on human trading, it was in fact trade orders executed automatically by algorithms that caused the crash. nanex noticed evidence of market activity at fractions of milliseconds by analyzing the Flash crash at a time resolution far quicker than conventional data records, which usually show one-minute trading intervals. computer-based high-frequency trading is beyond the capacity of human experience or action. in order to support their claim, nanex used otherwise secret trading data provided by waddell & reed, the mutual fund blamed for the crash. here the traditional role of the expert witness is taken by a collaboration between the forensic analyst and the renegade company, which joined forces to provide information in contravention of the industry’s unwritten law of secrecy.

the Flash crash of May 6, 2010 was the biggest one-day market decline in history. it saw the dow Jones industrial average plunge by about 1,000 points—9 percent of its total value—only to recover those losses within minutes. a forensic investigation of this financial event conducted by the data analyst nanex revealed that, in contrast to claims by us authorities, which put the blame on human trading, it was in fact trade orders executed automatically by algorithms that caused the crash. nanex noticed evidence of market activity at fractions of milliseconds by analyzing the Flash crash at a time resolution far quicker than conventional data records, which usually show one-minute trading intervals. computer-based high-frequency trading is beyond the capacity of human experience or action. in order to support their claim, nanex used otherwise secret trading data provided by waddell & reed, the mutual fund blamed for the crash. here the traditional role of the expert witness is taken by a collaboration between the forensic analyst and the renegade company, which joined forces to provide information in contravention of the industry’s unwritten law of secrecy.

Left: Display table layout, FORENSIS exhibition, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin 2014

Pages 73,75,77: Screenshots of COUNTERING CAPITULATION, single-channel video, 11:20 min., 2014

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CouNTerING CapITuLaTIoN From automated participation to renegade solidarity High-frequency trading and the forensic analysis of the Flash Crash, May 6, 2010 Gerald Nestler single channel video, 9:55 min., 2013

CouNTerING CapITuLaTIoN From automated participation to renegade solidarity High-frequency trading and the forensic analysis of the Flash Crash, May 6, 2010 Gerald Nestler single channel video, 9:55 min., 2013

The video concludes with a call for renegade solidarity between the forensic analyst, the whistleblower and the general public as basis for an informed political debate on the effects of algorithmic trading not just on financial markets but on society at large.

Focusing on a remarkable forensic analysis that not only contradicted the official findings of the regulatory authorities but also shed light on the impact of high-frequency trading, Nestler argues that in the current legal framework evidence of financial market events can only be produced by a double figure of the expert witness: the forensic analyst joined by a renegade whistleblower.

The video concludes with a call for renegade solidarity between the forensic analyst, the whistleblower and the general public as basis for an informed political debate on the effects of algorithmic trading not just on financial markets but on society at large.

Focusing on a remarkable forensic analysis that not only contradicted the official findings of the regulatory authorities but also shed light on the impact of high-frequency trading, Nestler argues that in the current legal framework evidence of financial market events can only be produced by a double figure of the expert witness: the forensic analyst joined by a renegade whistleblower.

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 history.

Image © Nanex, LLC

“NaNex FLasH CrasH suMMary reporT,” NaNex, sepTeMber 27, 2010. This time-line graph distinguishes “the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.”

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 history.

Image © Nanex, LLC

“NaNex FLasH CrasH suMMary reporT,” NaNex, sepTeMber 27, 2010. This time-line graph distinguishes “the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.”

both charts show e-mini s&p 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & reed contracts sold. Nanex’s findings contradict the official report issued by the seC (the us securities and exchange Commission) and the CFTC (the us Commodity Futures Trading Commission) as regards the catalyst of the Flash Crash by showing that the bulk of trades by the mutual fund Waddell & reed “occurred after the market bottomed and was rocketing higher—a point in time that the seC report tells us the market was out of liquidity.” Quoted from: “May 6’th 2010 Flash Crash analyses: Continuing Developments: sell algo Trades,” Nanex, october 8, 2010, http://www.nanex. net/FlashCrashFinal/FlashCrashanalysis_ Wr_update.html. Images: © Nanex, LLC.

both charts show e-mini s&p 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & reed contracts sold. Nanex’s findings contradict the official report issued by the seC (the us securities and exchange Commission) and the CFTC (the us Commodity Futures Trading Commission) as regards the catalyst of the Flash Crash by showing that the bulk of trades by the mutual fund Waddell & reed “occurred after the market bottomed and was rocketing higher—a point in time that the seC report tells us the market was out of liquidity.” Quoted from: “May 6’th 2010 Flash Crash analyses: Continuing Developments: sell algo Trades,” Nanex, october 8, 2010, http://www.nanex.net/ FlashCrashFinal/FlashCrashanalysis_Wr_update.html. Images: © Nanex, LLC.

These charts by Nanex show the growth of high frequency quoting (left) and high frequency trading (right) from 2008-2012. Nanex estimate that algorithmic trading accounts for 70% of trades and 99,9% of quotes. Hence, algorithmic trading constitutes market liquidity. The obvious conclusion: algorithmic trading machines have taken over. Images © Nanex, LLC.

These charts by Nanex show the growth of high frequency quoting (left) and high frequency trading (right) from 2008-2012. Nanex estimate that algorithmic trading accounts for 70% of trades and 99,9% of quotes. Hence, algorithmic trading constitutes market liquidity. The obvious conclusion: algorithmic trading machines have taken over. Images © Nanex, LLC.


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Mayhem in Mahwah

The Case of the Flash Crash; or, Forensic Reperformance In Deep Time It must be the case that I have some perception of the movement of each wave on the shore if I am to be able to apperceive that which results from the movements of all the waves put together, namely the mighty roar which we hear by the sea. –– Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz1

Automated Daemons Shoot first, ask questions later. –– Eric Hunsader2

When financial market prices plummeted and caused havoc on May 6, 2010, stock indices such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P500) incurred enormous losses in record time, and even single company stock notations crashed to previously unknown low levels, only to rebound minutes later.3 To quote but one of the many sources commenting on this global flash of financial pandemia, the event “carries the distinction for the second largest point swing, 1,010-points, and the biggest one-day point decline, of 998.5-points, on an intraday basis in the 114-year history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.”4 It was not just traders with open positions who were caught off-guard and severely affected. What has become known as the Flash Crash simultaneously sent a shockwave through wider business circles. Live on CNBC, for instance, TV newscast presenters and commentators were discussing the financial backgrounds of the severe protests taking place in Greece as a consequence of the credit crunch and the austerity cuts; but they seemed compelled to shift their attention increasingly to a financial event whose sheer magnitude left them stunned—the immense and unexpected drop in market prices occurring right before their eyes.5 Clueless as to what had catalyzed the crash—economic data did not account for a blow of such ferocious violence— they resorted to idiomatic terms such as “capitulation.” 78


Initially, the TV-screen showed live footage of the Greek insurgence in Athens meshed with economic data feeds and real-time market prices (a constant presence not only in today’s business media) ticking away in a smaller window below. But the live broadcast of protesters pitted against police forces gradually faded, with the discussion shifting in tone and content. Market charts began to fill the screen as the conversation plunged into an emotional debate about what specific contingency might have triggered the downward flood of transactions. The suggested speculative explanations included a “fat finger event” (a typing error), a breakdown of machines (a hardware failure), a software glitch, and rapid-selling action due to the European (and especially the Greek) credit crisis. One commentator was heard reiterating recommendations to buy because of the “ridiculously low” levels of some stocks; another proposed “shock and awe” politics in order to get the economy running again. The forceful global deformations introduced by the neoliberal reformulation of self-interested profit maximization became apparent in this instant of simultaneous broadcasting of civil unrest and financial war. The live coverage of the uprising in Greece and the fall in prices, each with its accompanying visual and oral rhetoric, unintentionally evoked the stark contrast between the capitalist regime of financialization6 on the one hand, with its debt-induced grip on politics and the economy, and on the other hand the effects of this regime on the notion of the public good. When the spotlight panned from the destroyed common ground in Greece to the historic instance of an algorithmic crash, market disequilibrium on a gigantic scale obscured a catastrophic failure of an even vaster extent. The Flash Crash eclipsed what has become the symbol of the ruination of the agora of commonality, epitomized by the eruption of popular protest in the site of its ancient origin in Athens. Figs. 1, 2. Stills from CNBC News, May 6, 2010. Images © CNBC

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Below the radar of agencies that were established to monitor market activity, corporate self-interest had created an even deeper level of incorporation: it was programed into the “genetic” code of a new breed of financial agency, the automated daemons of algorithmic trading.7 Derivatives of mathematical models, algorithms had already revolutionized the logistic infrastructure of exchanges by displacing the trading pit and thus its market makers (the human traders known as “locals”) in favor of faster execution rates. Subsequently, these daemonic powers were let loose to directly negotiate with one another on computerized matching machines, exploiting trading opportunities at a speed inaccessible to their human competitors. The foundations for this radical shift were established in the early 1970s. Donald Mackenzie informs us that “financial economics […] did more than analyze markets; it altered them. It was an ‘engine’ in a sense not intended by [Milton] Friedman: an active force transforming its environment, not a camera passively recording it.”8 Gil ScottHeron’s 1970 “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” comes to mind, a politically radical poem released at about the same time when the most significant model, the Black-Scholes formula, introduced an algorithm that sparked the first derivative wave of neoliberal market revolutions that today hold sway over the world. But while Mackenzie’s account is mainly concerned with “bodies” and their operations, High Frequency Trading (HFT) has in the meantime abandoned human traders for quant-coded algorithmic market making. As collateral damage, the epitome of territorialized capitalism, Wall Street, had become a mere symbol. While the crowded trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is still the undisputed televisual icon of the “market,” the media presence obfuscates, more than reveals, what the market has actually become, as a result of what I term the quantitative turn in finance. Since 2012 the NYSE and its trading floor have been the property of Intercontinental Exchange, a provider of algorithmic trading platforms operating from Atlanta, USA.9 The new pivotal architectural nodes of what has turned into a deterritorialized, informational capitalism are now the nondescript and non-representative warehouse buildings, filled to the brim with computer servers and fiber optics, in suburban areas such as Mahwah, New Jersey.10 Although in 2010 this was still future in the making, something unsettling had dawned on acute observers of the epic failure described as the Flash Crash: algorithmic daemonic powers, put in the driver’s seat, had slipped away from human control. For the first time, bots had caused mayhem. Not only were automated trading desks11 affected, but this “revolution” flashed into view as a globally televised event. 80


Forensics without a Forum The past is only the impatience of the future. –– Elie Ayache12

Despite these potential warning signs, however, acute observation was not widespread. A joint commission of two US regulatory bodies, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), undertook an investigation13 into the transaction matrix of this singular event: its results were widely criticized as unsatisfying.14 In a nutshell, the report came to the conclusion that human error reinforced by computer trading procedures triggered the Flash Crash. It blamed a single trader of a mutual fund representing long-term investors for causing the meltdown. Meanwhile, a less-cited investigation conducted by a small market data feed analyst, Nanex, produced a more convincing result, which challenged the SEC report.15 Nanex based its research methodology on what could be called a forensic archeology of historical trading data, and reached a conclusion that, unlike the official report, was not unwittingly16 streamlined to a financial elite with major vested interests in high frequency trading (or HFT—this is the generic term for computer-driven algorithmic trading, which takes place in microseconds). As we will see in more depth below, Nanex proved that algorithmic trade execution triggered the event without human interference. The reason the two reports arrived at such divergent results cannot be attributed to a shortage of material to investigate. Rather, we can ascribe the successful approach to two crucial factors. The first is a quality of depth in investigation, or more technically, the production of quantitative camera-engines with higher resolution on the split-second time scale in which high frequency trading is carried out. The strata to be investigated had to be discovered and discerned rather than simply considered and surveyed. Thus, algorithmic analytic devices were crucial for unearthing the archeological evidence.17 Its material elusiveness—which I will attribute below to a new breed of machines that turn apperception from conscious perception (when mental attention is coupled with previous experiences and conceptions) to technological cognition—hides a thick surface of myriads of data characterized by a propensity towards invisibility and a sort of “counter-perception” that easily escapes cognizability This fact marks the second crucial aspect of the analysis, the act that made it possible in the first place: the disclosure of proprietary trading data. I will refer below to this 81


ambiguous but essential act as a manifestation of the Janus-face of the expert witness in the field of a forensics of algorithmic and automated trading. The SEC and CFTC based their official report on the material made available by exchanges and market participants, which showed one-minute trading intervals. This dataset would have been adequate to scrutinize trading activities before the ascent of HFT. But today, to quote the founder of Nanex, Eric Hunsader, “in the blink of an eye, the market moves what used to take humans thirty minutes.”18 With HFT and the Flash Crash—whose naming enunciates a new category of speed—a one-minute resolution view of the material composition conceals more than it reveals. The following account of the Facebook stock market launch (IPO) illustrates the order of magnitude: Eric Hunsader: […] NASDAQ was trying to open the IPO up. By their third attempt, they’re telling everybody Wait, we’ll get it at 11:05. No, we’ll get it at 11:10, no we’ll get it at 11:30. So it was do or die time. […] Somebody there has the bright idea to just reboot the system. It takes NASDAQ offline a full seventeen seconds. […] When NASDAQ finally did reappear, what happened? The orders that were resting in the book all that time immediately disappeared. Like 60%-70% of all liquidity within 200 milliseconds is gone. Chris Martenson: So seventeen seconds of going dark for one of the largest ex changes out there. That must have been several lifetimes for these algorithms. EH: Seventeen million microseconds. CM: Seventeen million microseconds, that’s forever. EH: It is forever and that’s why we see the liquidity and all these books just go—poof!19 For Hunsader, the order of magnitude of microsecond time scales poses a threat to market activity per se. An instantly precipitated lack of liquidity–– the disappearance of automated market orders––is the blueprint for market collapse because “[a]lgorithms prefer predictability. If something spooks them (e.g., unexpected breaking news; a delay in the market’s opening), they simply stop trading. […] With no support and no bids, prices can drop dizzyingly fast. Making matters worse, the ‘smarter’ algos [financial lingo for algorithms] can recognize a downdraft in process and begin piling back into the market on the short side, exacerbating the price declines.”20 But what this quotation also illustrates is the sheer pointlessness of scrutinizing market activity at one-minute intervals. The officials charged with throwing light on the background of the Flash Crash therefore examined an image that 82


they mistook for razor-sharp, unaware that it was blurred and useless. Nanex was able to escape the trap by mistrusting the superficial matrix of one-minute trading accounts. Eric Hunsader subsequently commented that the SEC/CFTC analysts clearly “didn’t have the dataset to do it in the first place. One-minute snapshot data, you can't tell what happened inside of that minute,” also noting that his own analysts “didn’t really see the relationship between the trades and the quote rates until we went under a second.”21

Reperformative Forensics In real-world systems, nothing could be less normal than normality. –– Andrew Haldane and Benjamin Nelson, Bank of England22

Nanex is a market research firm that supplies real-time data feeds of trades and quotes for all US stock, option and futures exchanges. As their website states, “we have archived this data since 2004 and have created and used numerous tools to help us sift through the enormous dataset: approximately 2.5 trillion quotes and trades as of June 2010.”23 Elsewhere they declare that “Nanex’s database is now more than 20 times the size of NASA’s. That’s right—we’ve got more data on the stocks than we do on space.”24 The capacity to build algorithmic machines that allow the processing of information on such a scale is fundamental to gaining a resolution capable of visualizing— and thus understanding—the trades and quotes that are executed far below the threshold of human sense perception. Nevertheless, Nanex did not see this data as sufficient to account for the Flash Crash because they could not match it to its respective sources. As the former HFT trader David Lauer remarked:

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The markets and the interplay in the industry between all theses firms with all these very complicated and complex technology systems and how they interact makes the entire system of exchanges, high-frequency, brokers and the interaction between the technology, it makes it a complex system. […] There is no cause and effect that you can point to. What caused the Flash Crash is a nonsense question. […] And, if you were to replay the same sequence of events, identically, there’s no guarantee that it will cause a Flash Crash again. That’s the nature of complex systems.25


Fig 3. “We present this Flash Crash Summary Report using a time-line graph to distinguish the events that caused the crash from those that were effects of the crash. 84


The main chart covers from 14:42:30 to 14:52:00 in 1 second intervals, and the inset covers from 14:42:43 to 14:42:46 in 25ms intervals.” “Nanex Flash Crash Summary 85 Report,” Nanex, September 27, 2010. Image © Nanex, LLC.


The next step, therefore, was to apply a different strategy, or rather to extend the approach. Discontented with the official report, Nanex resorted to an investigation accomplished not only after the fact but also after the investigation: they asked the party blamed (though not identified) in the official report, the mutual fund Waddell & Reed, to grant access to their trading data. In line with the capitalist proprietary regime, it is quite plausible that the fund would have declined this request if it had been made before they were blamed. But by the time the Nanex analysts were conducting their investigation, Waddell & Reed would have had a keen and vested interest in clearing their name, such that they were prepared to disclose their trading data from the time of the Flash Crash. Hence, the incorporation of the “source code” of a proprietary dataset allowed Nanex to classify the data and deliver an account of the actual events that happened in micro time.26 The analysis relies on an apparatus that pairs the following three different custom-made quantitative frameworks in an effort to deliver a sufficient approximation of trading operations: firstly, Nanex’s enormous and ever-extending archive of financial data; secondly, their adaptive quantitative resolution devices that allow investigating these data sets; and finally, the algorithmic trading data of a proprietary participant. This framework allowed them to produce the groundbreaking narrative that subsequently brought to light the cybernetic regime of HFT. Borrowing a linguistic term that is widely used in computing, econometrics, and quantitative finance, we can outline this process as the parsing of the trading performance after the fact (the proprietary dataset provided by Waddell & Reed) by performative cameras that not only analyze Fig. 4: 250 millisecond interval chart. Fig. 5: 1 second interval chart. Images © Nanex, LLC.

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but craft a narrative representation (the analysis accomplished by Nanex). The final representation of the event is composed of an abundance of colorful simulations produced to visualize and flesh out the activities that took place in microseconds. This is a techno-aesthetics that counters the fundamentally iconoclastic situatedness of quantitative informational sign machines which do not communicate with humans. The vision-enhancing sensors that detect the time-blurred traces and help to mark discriminations in a highly complex environment deliver information that has to be “digested” in a separate stage in order to raise it to the surface of visibility and comprehensible representations. Thus, the forensic analysis is neither fully embodied nor defined by the abstract representations of data traffic. Rather, the methodology directing the analysis is situated, i.e. constructed, in between the juncture of performance as the actual presence of an event taking place (exemplified by the occurrence of the Flash Crash) and representation as providing “visual collateral” of a performative re-animation of the original obscured presence after the fact. From this, we can now outline a sharper distinction which will help us to grasp what is at play in the documentation and evaluation apparatus. Artificial sense organs reach into deep time by increasing the resolution bandwidth in order to revisit the otherwise insensible “scene of the crime.” The forensic analysis is thus an intricate and extensive cybernetic undertaking characterized by a process of re-mapping, re-modeling, re-visioning, and re-narrating a specific past that happened at near-light speed—a performance ex post that was the occurrence of a future event. As this approach re-enacts the performance of the event, the methodology can be specified as reperformance. Both charts show eMini S&P 500 index depth and cumulative Waddell & Reed contracts sold. Nanex’s findings contradict the official report as regards the catalyst of the Flash Crash by showing that the bulk of the mutual fund Waddell & Reed’s trades “occurred after the market bottomed and was rocketing higher— a point in time that the SEC report tells us the market was out of liquidity.” “May 6th 2010 Flash Crash Analyses: Continuing Developments: Sell Algo Trades,” Nanex, October 8, 2010. 87


The technological, calculative aspect of sifting data to come up with evidence—enacting the reperformance—becomes explicit in the sheer enormity of the material Nanex examined:

May 6th had approx. 7.6 billion […] records. We generated over 4,500 datasets and over 1,200 charts before uncovering what we believe precipitated the 600 point drop beginning at 14:42:46 and ending at 14:47:02. In generating these data sets we have also developed several proprietary applications that identify the conditions described in real time or for historical analysis.27

While the ground layers of the disaster zone that led to the blaming of the usual culprit—a human agent—showed nothing but detritus, only rigorous research into the deeper, less perceptible strata of microscopic time revealed the actual material matrix. What emerges is an excavation that evaluates an inversion of the relation between time and space: while the common notion of archeology entails entering into concrete and thick space cautiously (as when employing technologies of surveying, probing, and classifying, for instance), in order to extract the material witness of a former era, a forensic archeology of finance, in contrast, probes into the imperceptible materiality of time to detect patterns and recover artifacts whose existence is derived from financial models and built on technologies of miniaturization, automation and infrastructure aligned with politics of securing, excluding, and enclosing. The story of the Flash Crash unfolds in the immensely extended realm of trading bandwidth in which what becomes apparent is a technopolitical regime of exclusion/inclusion that clearly prioritizes the algorithmic “aesthetic and mode of thought”28 of a tiny but superior elite of HFT traders, or, more precisely, HFT quants. In the attempt to illustrate the complex background of the impact, Nanex resorted to metaphor: “The SEC report uses an analogy of a game of hot-potato. We think it was more like a game of dodge-ball among first-graders, with a few eighth-graders mixed in. When the eighth-graders got the ball, everyone cleared the deck out of panic and fear.”29

The Liquidation of Liquidity Shit happens, don’t judge me. –– Suhail Malik30

With this in mind, it is not surprising that sociologists of finance, such as the London School of Economics’ Daniel Beunza, speak of the Flash Crash as a watershed event in the history of markets. The official narrative has up to 88


the present day not seen fit to abandon the usual scapegoat of the human actor, presumably due to a reluctance to lay the blame upon technologies and infrastructures that have seen massive investment in recent years, including high-end quantitative engineering, fiber optic networks and data collocation systems, as well as the security infrastructure (the global real-time network architecture of financial markets).31 Yet the actual analysis of the Flash Crash produces a picture saturated with a violence whose perpetrators evidentially were neither human agents nor human-robot interactions (as the SEC report concluded) but massive robot-robot interactions materialized in trading quotes. In the era of algorithmic trading, distinguishing between quotes (bids or offers) and actual trades (when a bid and an offer are matched and deliver a price) is crucial because in comparison to quotes only a smaller amount of market action delivers trades. Nanex provides estimates that tell the story in full: more than 70 per cent of exchange trades are due to algorithms; but exchange quotes surpass this figure to a degree that lends the term capitulation a new meaning—99.9 per cent.32 These figures prove that a bot almost always partners a transaction. Hence, algorithmic trading adds to market liquidity,33 as advocates of HFT never get tired of emphasizing.34 The irony, though, is that they are more than right on this point—in actual fact, algorithmic trading is the liquidity of the market.

Fig. 6. The left chart shows the growth of high frequency quoting. Fig. 7. The right chart shows the (lack of) growth of high frequency trading. Images ŠNanex, LLC. 89


The obvious conclusion is that trading machines have taken over. High-level investment strategies are shifting from human decision-making to machine decision-making. Wilkins and Dragos argue that “[a]lgorithms are no longer tools, but they are active in analysing economic data, translating it into relevant information and producing trading orders.”35 With algorithms calculating probability and deciding on entry and exit strategies as well as execution, an event (for instance bad news about the economy or political incidents, etc.) might easily stop their action and massively drain the market of liquidity, as the incident of Facebook’s IPO illustrates.36 Which human market-maker on one of the few remaining trading floors would dare to take competitive issue with bots acting in microseconds in the knowledge that “shit happens”––that bot quotes disappear in a flash or a bot strategy triggers a huge amount of other bots that reinforce the event? As a result of speed, the market forum is deserted in a flash (by human standards) when a Flash Crash (by algorithmic standards) is born. The evidence procured by Nanex’s exacting application of forensic data gathering and analyses to a degree seldom experienced in the context of financial markets reveals that trading technologies and procedures today shape markets beyond both the intellectual and political grasp of officially installed regulatory bodies.37 These facts point to a space of (trans)action which not only surpasses human trading and regulatory surveillance capabilities: the incompetence of governance—technologically as well as intellectually—also has obvious effects on the political leverage of policymakers and, in turn, of constituents. This is exacerbated by the fact that we are dealing with a field in which the eyewitness is invalidated because these processes are beyond the cognitive ability of the human brain.38 No-one is present at the scene, no-one observes what is happening. As one commentator put it, quoting the trader and author Sal Arnuk:

It’s not just that humans are less and less involved in trading; it’s that they can’t be involved. ‘By the time the ordinary investor sees a quote, it’s like looking at a star that burned out 50,000 years ago.’39

From an imaginary perspective of algorithms (or algos), humans live in a backward corner of the galaxy. From a human perspective, algos are out of direct reach and the remote control unit has been lost in the bedlam of deregulation, political stalemate, and the “irrational exuberance” of economic boom times.40 These shortcomings are not only detrimental in an economic sense. 90


They stifle the potential for delivering judgment through the processes of political dissent, debate, and control (for recovering remote control, as it were), as they already relegate informed political and legal action to the level of nontransparency with regard to business procedures. The “liquidity” essential for policymaking—the availability of all information required for informed decisionmaking—is liquidated as well. The public forum introduced to deliver evidence after the fact has capitulated while forensic analysis capable of establishing collected evidence has seldom been heard.

Algorithmic Apperception All consciousness is a matter of threshold. — Gilles Deleuze41

The distinct narratives that were constructed around the Flash Crash and its investigations illustrate to what extent a forensics of financial markets already encounters difficulties in the phase of collecting evidentiary statements. Obtaining such data from the black boxes of proprietary trading firms is notoriously hard.42 Moreover, investigations are seldom brought before a legal forum, as they already meet insurmountable obstacles at the level of networked governance. A detailed examination of this case—an endeavor that would go beyond the constraints of this article—would show that this is not simply a technical question but is rooted in the interests of incorporated stakeholders.43 Adopting the viewpoint of ecological economics, Wilkins and Dragos address this issue the following way:

At the bottom there are the basal species—slaves, serfs, proletarians, free labor, consumers, account holders, etc. These strata are preyed on by those further up the food chain—pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, retail banks; and they in turn feed larger financial institutions, such as hedge funds, brokers, investment banks, propriety trading HFTs, etc. Each financial actor exploits the inefficiencies of the prey species and in the process produces new inefficiencies, further increasing the information gradient. Within this complex ecology there is a gradual stabilisation of predator-prey relationships, but unlike an actual ecosystem, the financial system has a much higher rate of change, leading to more abrupt singular events like flash-crashes evolving according to an accelerated rate of punctuated equilibria, with multiple black swans and mass extinctions.44

Algorithmic bots quote in microseconds. But a quote is just an offer to buy or sell, not a transaction. On the one hand, as mentioned above, quoting 91


provides liquidity for transactions to happen (there is “always” a quote that matches your order and thus renders a transaction and a price). On the other hand, enormous amounts of quotes flood the matching machines of exchange places. Quotes are often placed without the intention to execute. In such instances, their objective is not to facilitate transaction, i.e. to trade; rather, as hidden searchlights in the “dark time” beyond human perception, they prey, for instance, on inefficiencies in the ways large block orders are executed by institutional investors that are rebalancing their huge portfolios.45 There is little doubt that such aggressive conduct would be considered a crime if we were to translate it to human behavior. But the latest breed of financial daemons seem to be accorded special allowances in this regard, as Jerry Adler has suggested:

Many [quotes] were never meant to be executed; they are there to test the market, to confuse or subvert competing algorithms, or to slow trading in a stock by clogging the system—a practice known as quote stuffing. It may even be a different stock, but one whose trades are handled on the same server. On the Internet, this is called a denial-of-service attack, and it’s a crime. Among quants, it’s considered at most bad manners.46

Doyne Farmer, co-director of the program on complexity economics at Oxford’s Institute for New Economic Thinking, notes that “under price-time priority auction there is a huge advantage to speed.”47 As perception and decision must also be in touch under micro-time conditions, in order to avoid acting purely at random (or rather to implement the random indeterminacy of contingencies), quants (financial lingo for the quantitative analysts that develop algorithms) have consequently been programming decision-making into financial algorithms. Farmer’s statement therefore leaves room for an interpretation that points to an incentive to implement hurdles for competitors and other insiders (such as regulators) alike. Keeping them in the dark about algorithmic processes not only results in unfair competitive advantage, but ultimately leads to a technological politics of segregation that amounts to the survival of the fittest quant.48 Felix Salmon, a financial blogger for Reuters comments: “inevitably, at some point in the future, significant losses will end up being borne by investors with no direct connection to the HFT world, which is so complex that its potential systemic repercussions are literally unknowable.”49 It is safe to say, therefore, that such a development extends the predator-prey logic of capitalist market competition to a new order of magnitude, which incidentally makes a mockery of the judiciary.

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The crucial question is not that of the (in)equality of investment opportunities— to which the predator-prey metaphor would provide an answer. The more radical effects are “borne” by decision-making processes: we cannot make a decision on something that we do not perceive. Recognition in at least one of its many manifestations—be they visual, textual, technological, algorithmic or other—is conditional for apperception and decision-making. Michel Serres’ concept of the parasite/host seems more apt to delineate the new capitalist hegemony that becomes apparent in the interleaving of the black box of time fractions and the black box of proprietary technology, in which even the ideology of the “free market” is reduced to utter absurdity, with proprietary artificial sensing organs capable of penetrating into the dark kept undisclosed by their owners as if their possession were an inalienable right. Given the sheer influence of capitalist markets on society and the power of decision-making exercised by financial over public interests—a situation we have been witnessing over and over again in recent years—this not only applies to those individual investors that bots feed off directly (Salmon’s concern) but also to the trillions of people who are “invested” as resources in a parasitic system that is at the same time the host.

A Parasite Host This is truly the brave new world we are trying to regulate. –– Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Commissioner Scott O’Malia50

The cross-fade on CNBC that slowly followed the turn of attention from the live footage of the Greek insurrection to the uncanny intrusion of increasingly volatile market data is not simply a random coincidence of events or an unfortunate accident. Rather, the Flash Crash constitutes the proof of concept of the power of quantitative decision-making circuits. HFT has not suffered in the aftermath of the collapse. Quite to the contrary, it gained a competitive advantage over other market participants. Furthermore, it became evident that it is obscure to those commissioned to regulate these practices. In other words, the regulators are not in a superior position. To the contrary, the decisive superiority of HFT corporations over political supervisory bodies was effectively confirmed by SEC representatives when they conceded that the task of building and installing a data feed from scratch, which would allow them to monitor market activity, proved too complex. Thus the SEC had to resort to subscribing to the homegrown data collection system of an HFT company. “The wide gulf in technical prowess between the regulators and the regulated 93


became painfully clear that year [of the Flash Crash], prompting the SEC to explore hiring an outside firm that could gather up-to-the-minute market feeds from the public exchanges.”51 Although this policy move was welcomed, the deal highlights a paradoxical politics that follows the logic of the lesser evil: the data provider commissioned by the SEC, Tradeworx, is one of the foremost HFT trading firms.52 Their CEO, Manoj Narang, is one of the industry’s most outspoken champions of data-driven decision-making.53 The game that is visually represented by changing numbers on TV screens all over the world today has in fact become invisible and beyond the knowledge even of insiders, as parasitic circuits use technology to conceal their profit opportunities. As Eric Hunsader remarks, “we allow people with faster connections to place and remove offers or bids faster than the speed of light can deliver that information to the other market participants.”54 Thus such practices derail the backbone of capitalist market logic, the allocation of resources based on supply and demand; in an ironic turn, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” makes new sense. In the aftermath of the technology-based quantitative turn in finance, access to a data stream service alone is not the solution to reaching and staying on the same level as corporate HFT units. Technological development leaps forward and so does knowledge production. In this field of technopolitics, critics lament, regulators lag far behind even though steps have been taken to come up to par. In 2010, the SEC, which until then had mainly employed lawyers, started to hire more technically-oriented staff. But as one newly drafted specialist, economist Rick Bookmaster, concedes in a Washington Post article, the stakes are high and the gamble could well be lost due to the disadvantages of competition:

This job cannot be done by SEC lawyers or career government workers. […] We need to entice market professionals into government service who are on par with those in industry. […] The challenge […] is in recruiting undergraduate computer science wizards who might otherwise […] trade for hedge funds. We have to rely on public spiritedness as opposed to dollars to pull them here.55

This attests to the degree of perversity inherent in the financial system. Having first been lured away with big salaries from the less affluent fields of science and production, engineers, mathematicians and physicists are subsequently subject to attempts to persuade them to help take action against the new hegemony. This attests to the overexposure of markets in society: 94


a more twisted, if not false, version of public spiritedness would be hard to find. Although this boils down to drafting in renegades willing to “sacrifice” for a greater good, financial capitalism per se is not challenged. Such a “greater good” seems a far cry from, for example, the common good that would be effected by dissolving the debt bonds set up by markets and financialization. Hence, the complex, self-generating, self-replicating, self-referential registers of algorithms are part of a larger medium of information circulation. Geared towards exploiting miniscule inefficiencies (in financial terms, arbitrage), what has been termed an arms race to zero (the competitive battle to achieve the technological means of trading at speeds approaching the speed of light) is directed towards deeper levels of exploitation that connect these low latency (i.e. extremely rapid delay processing) machines to the slower computer networks of the financial infrastructure, and from there to wider social nets. In terms of the logistics inherent in HFT, distribution is paramount. Automation not only produces material items (bids and offers, in our example) but also manipulates the conditions of delivery by distorting the “field homogeneity” of the financial matching network. In other words, equal access to the matching machines of exchange places tends to be squashed where HFT rules. Automated spreading of quotes, for example, is not about benefitting from market liquidity by the generic matching process of supply and demand (bids and offers), which is reflected in prices. Rather, these schemes make the address by attracting and decoying technologically less privileged order frames and thus construct prices by distorting supply and demand. As producers of noise (the myriads of quotes that serve as liquidity traps), these parasites are only the first in a line, feeding off a host that is in turn a parasite exploiting arbitrage opportunities, and so on. “In the parasitic chain, the last to come tries to supplant his predecessor.”56 Battled out between corporate vested interests that can afford the escalating expenses, the transactions delivered by the infrastructure of trading engines create the impression of a virtual if not immaterial battlefield subject to only minor material restraints. Nevertheless, the pivotal factor in leveraging this speed war is geographical location. As mentioned before, the less space between the proprietary trading and the exchange’s matching engines, the faster the process and consequently the bigger the competitive advantage for whoever is thus optimizing the logistics of HFT automation.

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Speed is of the essence. This is why with HFT the “information gradient” discussed by Wilkins and Dragos above is basically a speed gradient. “A trend that began with pigeons ends with subatomic particles, carrying data that is outdated almost before it arrives at its destination.”57 Even if there is an absolute limit to these developments, a divide has opened up, a gaping but invisible abyss: by exploiting timescales beyond the threshold of perception a new class of enclosures has found the means effectively to hide its machinations from slower competitors and public influence alike. In this field, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s notion of apperception has ceased to be a conception of conscious experience emerging from small, unconscious perceptions. The myriads of mathematically constructed small perceptions (of which these camera-engines are not at all “unconscious”) define a virtual field of machine apperception where those who do not command the latest cyborg infrastructure are captured or blocked. The financial market architecture with its proprietary algorithmic logistics has become a black box not only with regard to the parameters of official inquests, but also in terms of knowability much more generally. Thus, what the black box emits is not information but noise. This technowledge (to craft a term for the fusion of technology and knowledge beyond human apperception) exerts influence not only on much of the industry but of necessity cripples the public forum as a whole. We encounter a global system that acts not only in the dark but “in the dark of time.” While the past is a random figure, a deficient but nonetheless highly valued stochastic reservoir of historic data calibrated to model future probabilities, the future has turned into a becoming that eclipses the very notion of the moment. In the horizon of human experience, a violence has taken hold that is unnamable, as the flashes of its now have no opening. It only strikes collateral. When that instant leaks into a moment (the same moment yet a fraction after the micro-instant) and noise starts inflating into a bubble, the abyss of the market crash opens to a bottomless pit of “capitulation” on all fronts.58 Suddenly, the helpless idiom expressed on CNBC Live reveals its pathological purport: It manifests an assault on a defenseless public—capitulation is nothing else than the cry for bailout. The parasite takes host-age, blackmailing with debt. Thus, the true derivative—that which is dependent on and at the same time fundamental for risk markets—is not a tradable risk product but the public as last resort. We are the ultimate hedge.

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The Future Forum and the Double Figure of the Expert Witness Those who exercise power always arrange matters so as to give their tyranny the appearance of justice. — La Fontaine59

If it weren’t for the sheer mathematical abstraction, iconoclast “imagery” and legal non-disclosure arrangements that occlude these closed microsecond sessions from almost any investigation,60 let alone inquest, the violence exerted and the pains suffered would arguably not so easily slip under the cover of the hegemonic ideology of the free market as social institution. In the war over miniscule trajectories of future events (risk potentials) and inadequacies happening in moments that can only be noticed by bots (arbitrage opportunities), all those who are not invested in the latest breed of cyborg engines lack apperception and speech—and thus the means for conscious and experienced perception and expression. Furthermore, as we have learnt, microsecond manifestations escape inquest and litigation. One could make the case that a violence that violates below the threshold of political forums (including that of jurisdiction) undermines the economic as well as political frameworks set up to keep regimes of power in check. Bot coding is about a relational apperception constituted in an idiom of risk sensitivity, measure, and production that is not constructed to communicate with humans directly. The artificial life world of financial automation, unsurprisingly perhaps, is not about freedom and equality. It is about a struggle for competitive advantage, if not monopoly, battled out on a surface on which humans cannot tread. The live audio recording of the Flash Crash from one of the few remaining trading floors where human traders still serve as market makers delivers striking proof of the intermittent uninhabitability of the trading environment.61 It also resonates with the Nanex quotation cited above: “When the eighth-graders got the ball, everyone cleared the deck out of panic and fear.” Despite the near-elimination of the eyewitness from the scene (who as market maker is an expert witness at the same time), the paradigmatic shift to electronic exchange (in most markets) gives rise to the cognate notion of a subtly different kind of witness, one who would be capable of challenging this calculative rape: the traitor, the informant, the renegade who transgresses the unwritten laws of complicity and secrecy. By providing material from undisclosed or classified sources on a broad range of subjects this figure of the whistleblower has in recent years turned the principal witness for the public, procuring otherwise 97


unavailable evidence of violence. In the financial context, this particular manifestation of the witness—who does not testify on the basis of real presence— becomes the medium of forensics by a logistics of redirection (e.g. the leaking of confidential material that cannot—must not—speak for itself). This witness is not a plain informant. The financial renegade who presents objects as subjects-of-debate is an expert witness as much as the scientific analyst ally who subsequently (re)constructs the forensic narrative by composing the facts. The story of the Flash Crash offers an example of paradigmatic and at the same time ambiguous significance for the possible production of future forums, depicting in all its complexity the horizon of an exposed and discontinuous selfregulating force against the boundless utopia of a self-regulating market. This Janus-faced configuration of the doubled expert witness might indeed be a figure that resonates with the complex situations encountered by forensics, in which “only the criminal can solve the crime.”62 The notion of the expert witness as one who was originally involved in the event under investigation seems to highlight the Achilles’ heel of the particular mode of calculative oppression that works through HFT as part of the paradigm of the neoliberal market. The intricate problem of the resolution of the Flash Crash demonstrates the ambiguity contained: the participation of an insider or even (alleged) perpetrator is required in order to unearth evidential data that was buried in fractions of a second. This is reflected in the SEC’s strategy of employing figures with first-hand experience of and expertise in the activities they want to uncover:

Michael Fioribello, 38, might know more about derivatives than anyone else at the agency. Before going to the SEC, he worked at AIG for nearly a decade, helping to manage the company’s derivatives operation […]. [He] has provided colleagues with insights into how financial players structure derivatives to conceal something that could be illegal. “[…] There can be bells and whistles done to reduce transparency or otherwise circumvent federal securities laws.”63

In addition to hiring renegades, a further ambiguous but vital objective is to accelerate technological advancement in order to come up to par with perpetually evolving industry standards.64 In contrast to espionage or surveillance, exploring and surveying an as-yet-unknown environment bears a similarity to cybernetic reconnaissance. The military analogy reveals a problematic approach in the regulatory body’s perpetual chasing after a glimpse behind an ever-moving frontline, as the afore-mentioned subscription to the data feed of 98


HFT’s leading proponent Tradeworx by the SEC illustrates. Finally, another ambiguity suggests itself: the only way out for policymakers, lawyers, activists, and the public in general—the only route forward to the public forum and away from the dominance of boundless and unregulated (i.e. self-regulating) markets—entails, at least for the time being, actively encouraging and supporting the disclosure of proprietary financial data to the public—a criminal offense, except where the source is the owner. Only renegade solidarity aimed against the pathological deformation of cognoscibility in this vital field of contemporary power relations seems capable of delivering the relevant information that is fundamental, to paraphrase the quotation from Leibniz which opened this paper, for apperceiving the “mighty roar” of financial markets. In all its ambiguity, reperformative forensic analysis, performed by the double figure of the cyborg expert witness, is a productive force in facilitating a body of accurate performative translations that incorporate the nucleus of the future forum. Instead of resorting to simple answers (the human factor) it enters directly into complex power relations. In concert with a specific public (in neoliberal lingo, stakeholders), this insurrection against an increasing hegemony of algorithmic daemon powers may facilitate leverage (as ample proof alone is apparently not sufficient) to resurrect both the legal forum of corporate litigation and the political forum of legislation. Renegade solidarity, however, exceeds the finance-state complex. It invigorates the fundamental principles of democracy by directly addressing the public for the common weal.65 The future forum becomes apparent in manifestations and revolts that counteract the neoliberal zeal to redirect the bottomless volatilities of crises from shareholders to society by absorbing the public into competing stakeholder groups. Thus, the future forum in excess of calculation exceeds demand for justice.66 It will act to dismantle parasitic proprietary enclosures, foster decision-making on and in a resurrected agora of communality and give voice to those whose inalienable rights are truly exploited.

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Countering Capitulation, installation views FORENSIS, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 15.3. – 5.5.2014 Š Laura Fiorio / Haus der Kulturen der Welt 100


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Notes 1. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, correspondence with Arnould, October 9, 1687, in Philosophical Writings, trans. M. Morris (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1934), 85. 2. Eric Hunsader, “Coexisting without Colocating,” HFT Review (Hunsader’s blog), October 18, 2011, http://www.hftreview.com/pg/blog/erichunsader/read/12033/ coexisting-without-colocating. 3. The Wall Street Journal published a more detailed summary one day after the slump on May 7, 2010. See Lauricella and McKay, “Dow Takes a Harrowing 1,014.14-Point Trip,” The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2010. 4. Gary Dorsch, “The Forgotten ‘Flash Crash’––One-year later,” Global Money Trends newsletter, May 2, 2011, http://www.sirchartsalot.com/article.php?id=152. 5. See “FLASH CRASH May 6, 2010 CNBC,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=a nnotation_191025&feature=iv&src_vid=7UhKOs3dYk4&v=IJae0zw0iyU, accessed Sept. 2013. 6. Wikipedia summarizes “financialization” succinctly as “a term that describes an economic system or process that attempts to reduce all value that is exchanged (whether tangible, intangible, future or present promises, etc.) either into a financial instrument or a derivative of a financial instrument.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financialization, accessed September 2013. 7. The website of the Linux-based operating system Arch has a short and comprehensive definition: “A daemon is a program that runs as a ‘background’ process (without a terminal or user interface), commonly waiting for events to occur and offering services. A good example is a web server that waits for a request to deliver a page […]. While these are full featured applications, there are daemons whose work is not that visible.” https://wiki.archlinux.org/index. php/Daemons, accessed September 2013. 8. Donald Mackenzie, An Engine, Not a Camera (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 12. 9. Javier E. David, “ICE to Buy NYSE for $8.2 Billion, Ending Era of Independence,” CNBC, December 20, 2012, http://www.cnbc.com/id/100330589. 10. “The data center of NYSE Euronext, the international conglomerate that includes the New York Stock Exchange, is in a building in suburban Mahwah, New Jersey, 27 miles from Wall Street.” Jerry Adler, “Raging Bulls: How Wall Street Got Addicted to Light-Speed Trading,” Wired, August 3, 2012. 11. Coincidentally, Automated Trading Desk LLC pioneered automated HFT in the wake of the 1987 market crash. They state on their webpage: “Welcome to the future of automated trading. […] A world where only those that can move fast enough to predict market shifts are able to compete at the highest level.” http://www.atdesk.com, last accessed October 2013. 12. Elie Ayache, The Blank Swan: The End of Probability (Chichester: Wiley, 2010), 421. 13. “Findings regarding the market events of May 6, 2010.” Reports of the staffs of the CFTC and SEC to the joint advisory committee on emerging regulatory issues, September 30, 2010, http://www.sec.gov/news/studies/2010/marketevents-report.pdf. 14. For two examples of criticism concerning the report’s findings, see Tyler Durden (alias), “SEC Releases Final Flash Crash Report—Waddell And Reed Blamed As Selling Catalyst,” ZeroHedge, October 1, 2010, http://www.zerohedge.com/article/sec-releases-final-flashcrash-report-waddell-and-reed-blamed-selling-catalyst; and for harsh criticism even before the official presentation of the report, Christopher Steiner, “Searching For Flash Crash Culprit, The SEC Fingers Wrong Man,” Forbes, September 9, 2010, http://www.forbes.com/sites/ 102


christophersteiner/2010/09/09/searching-for-flash-crash-culprit-the-sec-fingers-wrong-man. 15. Nanex’ final statement, titled “Flash Crash Mystery Solved,” March 26, 2013, can be found with links to its research at http://www.nanex.net/aqck2/4150.html, last accessed September 2013. 16. A statement by Nanex, however, points to a different conclusion: “The email exchange [with one of the co-authors of the official report] was very disturbing because the explanation was basically a new and bizarre definition of liquidity […] [that] states that if a High Frequency Trader (HFT) aggressively buys contracts by executing against existing orders posted by a seller, then the HFT could be classified as a liquidity provider, and the seller classified as a liquidity taker. […] it is exactly opposite of the industry accepted understanding of liquidity, not to mention, basic common sense. It's like saying up is down and down is up. It seems they were trying to fit the data to match a foregone conclusion. […] To base any future regulations on either of these papers would be ill-advised and reckless. Someone needs to do some serious house cleaning at the SEC and CFTC.” “The SEX Redefines Liquidity (when it’s convenient),” Nanex Research, April 12, 2012, http://www.nanex.net/aqck/2977.html. 17. “Analysis of the ‘Flash Crash’,” Nanex, June 18, 2010 (since updated), http://www.nanex. net/20100506/FlashCrashAnalysis_Intro.html. 18. Transcript of Adam Taggart, “Eric Hunsader: Investors Need to Realize the Machines Have Taken Over. The Blink of an eye is a lifetime for HFT algos,” Peak Prosperity, October 6, 2012, http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/79804/nanex-investors-realize-machines-taken-over. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. “U.S. ‘flash crash’ report ignores research – Nanex,” Sify Finance, October 5, 2010, http:// www.sify.com/finance/u-s-flash-crash-report-ignores-research-nanex-news-insurance-kkfiEjeciij.html. 22. Andrew G. Haldane and Benjamin Nelson, “Tails of the unexpected,” paper presented at “The Credit Crisis Five Years On: Unpacking the Crisis,” conference held at the University of Edinburgh Business School, June 8–9, 2012, http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/ Documents/speeches/2012/speech582.pdf, at 20. 23. “Analysis of the ‘Flash Crash’.” 24. Andy Mills, “Fast Cash Dash Flash Crash Clash: Hear and See Some Super Trading,” Radiolab, February 6, 2013, http://www.radiolab.org/ story/267356-fast-cash-flash-crash-mad-dash-clash/. 25. David Lauer in Marijke Meerman, dir., “The Wall Street Code,” documentary, 51 min, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFQJNeQDDHA, at 46:00–46:48, accessed November 2013. 26. See, for example, “May 6th 2010 Flash Crash Analysis: Continuing Developments Sell Algo Trades,” Nanex, October 8, 2010 (since updated), http://www.nanex.net/FlashCrashFinal/ FlashCrashAnalysis_WR_Update.html. 27. See the “About” page on Nanex’s website, June 18, 2010, http://www.nanex. net/20100506/FlashCrashAnalysis_About.html. 28. Luciana Parisi, Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, and Space (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013), x. Parisi traces the “logic of computation and its ingression into culture” 103


(ix) in architectural and interaction design. Although she does not respond directly to finance, her characterization of digital algorithms is also applicable to financial algorithms, insofar as she describes them as “performing entities: actualities that select, evaluate, transform, and produce data” (ix) which “are not simply representations of data, but are occasions of experience insofar as they prehend information in their own way” (xii–xiii). 29. “May 6th 2010 Flash Crash Analysis: Final Conclusion,” Nanex, October 14, 2010, http:// www.nanex.net/FlashCrashFinal/FlashCrashAnalysis_Theory.html. 30. This quip was intended to illustrate the state of contemporary art. Suhail Malik, lecture given at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), April 2, 2013, http://vimeo.com/71058588 (36:33-36:36). The relationship between contemporary art and finance, and their underlying dependence on indeterminacy rather than uncertainty, are addressed in a forthcoming text by the author. 31. For accounts of the background of the Flash Crash and algorithmic trading respectively, see Marije Meerman, dir., Money & Speed: Inside the Black Box (Netherlands, 2013), 49 mins., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4BzsevJthw; and The Wall Street Code (Netherlands, 2013), 50 mins., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFQJNeQDDHA, both last accessed November 2013. 32. “The Rise and Fall of the HFT Machines,” Nanex Research, http://www.nanex.net/ aqck/2804.HTML, accessed September 2013. 33. Liquidity is essential for price discovery. It constitutes trading opportunity at an asked price (with minor variance) because of the availability of a buyer or seller respectively. Thus, it implies a constant exchange of information and trades. Loss of liquidity implies unacceptable prices that could ultimately lead to a crash. 34. See, for example, this MIT Technology Review feature story on the quant entrepreneur Manoj Narang: Bryant Urstadt, “Trading Shares in Milliseconds,” MIT Technology Review, December 21, 2009, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/416805/ trading-shares-in-milliseconds. 35. Inigo Wikins and Bogdan Dragos, “Destructive Destruction? An Ecological Study of High Frequency Trading,” Mute, January 22, 2013, http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/ destructive-destruction-ecological-study-high-frequency-trading#. 36. Tyler Durden, “Nanex: Investors Need to Realize the Machines have Taken Over,” October 6, 2012, Zero Hedge, http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-10-06/ guest-post-nanex-investors-need-realize-machines-have-taken-over. 37. See more in “U.S. ‘flash crash’ report ignores research.” 38. See Parisi, Contagious Architecture. 39. Adler, “Raging Bulls.” 40. The expression “irrational exuberance” was used by the former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to describe the Dot Com boom and its possibly detrimental results. “Remarks by Chairman Alan Greenspan,” Annual Dinner and Francis Boyer Lecture of The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., December 5, 1996, http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/1996/19961205.htm, last accessed September 2013. 41. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: 104


University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 64. 42. This problem is often the basis of complaints voiced by sociologists of finance like Donald Mackenzie and others. See also note 60 43. As regards the Flash Crash, Nanex’s final statement on the case ends with the following remark: “The HFT lobby will vehemently deny any blame for causing the flash crash and will use a number of straw man arguments, eventually enlisting the SEC final flash crash report which named Waddell & Reed as the cause (W&R). [...] This is a very complex subject and lobbyists will use that to bamboozle you.” Nanex, “Flash Crash Mystery Solved.” 44. Wilkins and Dragos, “Destructive Destruction?” 45. Trading ahead of index fund rebalancing exploits algorithmic program trading by institutional investors who split big orders into smaller trades in order to manage risk. Thus, algo traders parasitically prey upon investors’ returns. For detailed descriptions of the diverse strategies used by algo traders, see Scott Pattersen, Dark Pools (New York: Crown Business, 2012). 46. Adler, “Raging Bulls.” 47. J. Doyne Farmer, “The impact of computer based training on systemic risk,” 11. Paper presented at the London School of Economics, January 11, 2013, http://www.lse.ac.uk/fmg/ events/conferences/Systemic-Risk-Centre/Foresight-Report_110113/Papers-and-slides/DoyneFarmer.pdf. 48. As mentioned above, financial regulation is to a great extent conducted by the industry itself. 49. See Will Knight, “Watch High-Speed Trading Bots Go Berserk,” August 7, 2012, http:// www.technologyreview.com/view/428756/watch-high-speed-trading-bots-go-berserk. 50. Scott O’Malia, quoted in Kambiz Foroohar, “Trading Pennies Into $7 Billion Drives HighFrequency’s Cowboys,” Bloomberg, October 6, 2010, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/201010-06/trading-pennies-into-7-billion-profit-drives-high-frequency-s-new-cowboys.html. 51. Dina El Boghdady, “SEC going high-tech with real-time trade data,” The Washington Post, Dec. 24, 2012. 52. See http://www.tradeworx.com/. 53. See Urstadt, “Trading Shares in Milliseconds.” 54. Laurence Knight, “A dark magic: The rise of the robot traders,” BBC News, July 8, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23095938. 55. Zachary A. Goldfarb, “SEC is hiring more experts to assess complex financial systems,” The Washington Post, June 15, 2010. 56. Michel Serres, The Parasite (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 4. 57. Adler, “Raging Bulls.” 58. Noise––as the opposite of information––was first elucidated as a theory of pricing by Fischer Black in “Noise,” paper given at the Forty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the America Finance Association, New York, December 20–30, 1985, published in Journal of Finance, vol. 41, issue 3 (July 1986): 529–543. 59. La Fontaine (1668). 60. Andrew Lo, the Director of the Laboratory for Financial Engineering at the MIT Sloan School of Management, addressed this problem at a Conference on Systemic Risk and Data Issues in 2011, referring to a study he conducted on a “quant meltdown” in 2007: “we felt a bit odd about this because […] you know for a fact that there are people out there that know 105


what actually happened but they’re not talking. So in fact, this entire paper could be science fiction or it could be dead on, we have no idea. To this day we don’t know because nobody is talking. They are not allowed to talk because that would disadvantage their shareholders.” Video available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuDIoBeNwD0 (see 13:20-13:55), accessed September 2013. 61. In the thick of the hostile moments of the Flash Crash, Ben Lichtenstein, the “voice of the CME S&P futures pit” exclaimed (to take a single example): “This will blow people out in a big way like you won’t believe,” Traders Audio, “May 6 2010 Stock Market Crash,” May 12, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mC4tu1NhUA. 62. This is the subtitle of the chapter on Forensic Architecture in Eyal Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza (London: Verso, 2012). 63. Goldfarb, “SEC is hiring more experts.” 64. Ibid. 65. Its precarious and vulnerable state in informational capitalism might to some extent be conditioned by insufficient coalitions against the global investor/shareholder hegemony—a crucial counterbalance in order to curtail power regimes, which, for instance, trade unions exerted in industrial capitalism. 66. In the light of automated algorithmic practices in which the future is exploited by the generation of microsecond arbitrage opportunities, the future forum will be a counter-future forum where agency is recuperated from the capitalist enclosure of a future-at-present—among many other things by making use of (instead of being used by) algorithmic processes.

Published in: Forensis. The Architecture of Public Truth. Eyal Weizman, Susan Schuppli, Shela Sheikh, Anselm Franke, Thomas Keenan, Paulo Tavares (Eds.), Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2014 With contributions by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Nabil Ahmed, Maayan Amir, Hisham Ashkar & Emily Dische-Becker, Ryan Bishop, Jacob Burns, Howard Caygill, Gabriel Cuéllar, Eitan Diamond, DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency), Anselm Franke, Grupa Spomenik, Ayesha Hameed, Charles Heller, Helene Kazan, Thomas Keenan, Steffen Krämer, Adrian Lahoud, Armin Linke, Jonathan Littell, Modelling Kivalina, Model Court, Working Group Four Faces of Omarska, Gerald Nestler, Godofredo Pereira, Nicola Perugini, Alessandro Petti, Lorenzo Pezzani, Cesare P. Romano, Susan Schuppli, Francesco Sebregondi, Michael Sfard, Shela Sheikh, SITU Research, Caroline Sturdy Colls, John Palmesino & Ann Sofi Ronnskog / Territorial Agency, Paulo Tavares, Füsun Türetken, Robert Jan van Pelt, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss / NAO, Eyal Weizman, Ines Weizman, Chris Woods. 106


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Gerald Nestler In his research and practice, Nestler combines theory with video, installation, performance, speech and other media, to question, resist and counter the complex material agglomeration known as finance and its technowledge – the derivative theoretical, technological, methodological, and narrative traits that characterize today’s paradigmatic regime of biopolitics. Nestler graduated from the Academy of fine arts Vienna in 1992. From 19941997, he conducted artistic fieldwork as broker and trader. He has realized artistic projects internationally since the late 1990s and received an Austrian State Scholarship for Visual Art in 2003. In 2007, Nestler published Yx . fluid taxonomies—enlitened elevation—voided dimensions—human derivatives— vibrations in hyperreal econociety (Schlebrügge. Editor, Vienna), an artist book and reader on finance and economy as fields of artistic research. Recent projects include: The Trend Is Your Friend (steirischer herbst 09, Kunsthaus Graz, with Sylvia Eckermann), Declining Democracy. Rethinking democracy between utopia and participation (CCC Strozzina, Florence, 2011, member of expert team), Superglue. Artistic Research on Scientific Research (Vienna Art Week 11, with Gerald Straub), On Purpose. The New Derivative Order (kunstraum Bernsteiner, Vienna, 2012), Glitch (Kunstraum Innsbruck, 2013, cocurator with Maximilian Thoman and artist), Carry Cargo Cult (Kunsthalle Wien, 2013), Forensis (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2014). Selected publications: Coeditor of Kunstforum International 200 and 201 on art and economy (with Dieter Buchhart, 2010), “The New City Reader, Issue 9: Legal,” in: The Last Newspaper, New Museum, New York, 2011 (collection of contributions by members of the Centre for Research Architecture, London), Paratactic Commons (amber’12 Art and Technology Festival Istanbul), What’s next. Art after the crisis (eds. J.M. Hedinger, T. Meyer, Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2013), Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, 2014 (edited by Forensic Architecture and published by Sternberg Press, Berlin). Nestler lives in Vienna, Austria where he lectures at Webster University Vienna. He is currently completing a PhD at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. www.geraldnestler.net 109


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From Contingent Becoming to Derivative Futures. Artistic Inquiries into a Biopolitical Power Regime  

The publication assembles exhibition projects and performative lectures by Gerald Nestler and a diverse group of contributors between 2012-2...

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