Mark Curran

Limerick City Gallery of Art

Mark Curran, Algorithmic Surrealism (still), 2015. Single channel HD digital video, color, sound/voiceover. Zuidas Global Financial District, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

August 27, 2015

Mark Curran
The Economy of Appearances

4 September–30 October 2015

Opening: Thursday, 3 September

Limerick City Gallery of Art
Carnegie Building
Pery Square

In Mark Curran’s practice, projects unfold over time. Curran has undertaken a cycle of long-term, ethnographically-informed multimedia research projects addressing the predatory context resulting from migrations and flows of global capital. Southern Cross (1999–2001) and The Breathing Factory (2002–05) critically surveyed precarious spaces of finance, development and globalised technology in the Irish Republic’s putative industrial transformation during the so-called “Celtic Tiger” economy. Ausschnitte aus EDEN/Extracts from EDEN (2003–08), sited in a declining industrial and mining region of former East Germany, evidenced devastating prophecies of neoliberal capitalist futures. Finally, in the evolutionary aftermath of global economic collapse and absence of sustained engagement with the central locus of this event, Curran’s ongoing multi-sited enquiry THE MARKET (2010–) focuses on the function and condition of global markets.

In this major exhibition, The Economy of Appearances, Curran draws these projects together for the first time, expanding the enquiry with newly commissioned work completed in Amsterdam. Incorporating photographs, film, sound, artifactual material and testimony, themes include algorithmic machinery of financial markets, as innovator of this technology, absorption of crises as normalisation of deviance, and long range mapping and consequences of financial activity distanced from citizens and everyday life. Profiles include traders, bankers and financial analysts and documentation from London, Dublin, Frankfurt and Addis Abeba. 

Curran filmed in the new financial district of Zuidas, on the periphery of Amsterdam, global centre for algorithmic trading. Adapted from a text by former trader and financial activist, Brett Scott, examining High Frequency Trading (HFT) and how the input of human values, are excluded, the voiceover and title of the film, Algorithmic Surrealism, are inspired by Scott’s essay. The film suggests the hegemony of HFT, accounting now for most trading, and extinction of human reason—including traits such as empathy and ethics—in market decisions will only perpetuate the power relations of minority wealth in globalised capitalist systems. 

Site of the world’s oldest exchange, Amsterdam is central to the Netherlands’ pivotal role in the global “shadow banking system” (with Luxembourg and Ireland), where officers play conflicting parts in Euro Zone financial manoeuvres—e.g., facilitating flight of capital from Greece whilst scolding lax Greek tax regimes. In her ethnographic research of Wall Street, anthropologist and ex-banker, Karen Ho uses the phrase “economy of appearances” to argue how banking culture consciously nurtures the production of crises while simultaneously, ensuring its rescue. 

Through the application of an algorithm identifying the words “market” and/or “markets” in public speeches by relevant national Ministers of Finance, the data is then transformed to create the installation soundscape. To date, algorithmic translations of Michael Noonan (Ireland), George Osborne (United Kingdom), Pierre Moscovici (France) and Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Netherlands & Eurozone Group President) have been included in exhibitions in those countries. Curran activates the popular graphic representation of such circumstance through a 3D visualisation of the algorithmically-generated soundscape—The Economy Of Appearances—to represent contemporary financial capital functioning through the conduit of the financialised nation state.

An artist researcher whose fieldwork draws on the history of activism in art, Mark Curran is an activist campaigner committed to discovery and knowledge production. Passionate about citizens’ right to understand and have a voice, Curran seeks to retain humanity at the heart of decisions made in international financial markets, battlegrounds in the 21st century’s neoliberal global financial war.

Algorithm & Sound Composition: Ken Curran
3D Data Visualisation: Damien Byrne
Film Editor: Lidia Rossner
Voice: Claudia Schäfer
Text: Helen Carey

Thanks to Arts Council of Ireland, Noorderlicht, NEPN (University of Sunderland), Institute of Art, Design & Technology, Belfast Exposed, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Gallery of Photography & Culture Ireland

Mark Curran holds a PhD, is Lecturer in Photography at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), Dublin and Visiting Professor on the MA in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University of Berlin. He lives and works in Berlin and Dublin. 

Research blog THE MARKET


Mark Curran at Limerick City Gallery of Art
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Limerick City Gallery of Art
August 27, 2015

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