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The G-7 Stock Puppets
An Internet-driven kinetic sculpture
and interactive "commodities" trading environment
The G-7 Stock Puppets are an Internet-driven kinetic installation
that tracks the movements of global stock markets with seven larger-than-life
marionette puppets. Using a real-time data stream, a network of PC laptops,
and a complex electro-mechanical control system, the installation reanimates
the abstract machinations of global financial markets
as an absurdist carnival puppet show.
Unfortunately, the script for this puppet show remains
a bit hazy. One moment, we might find the NASDAQ puppet soaring 20 feet
into the air, consumed with the latest IPO elation. The next moment, without
apparent reason or warning, the Nikkei puppet might fall to the ground,
crumpling into a fetal posture of weakness and desperation. From the opening
to the closing bell, the puppets continue to rise and fall in serendipitous
synchronicity with the "arbitrary" movements of the G-7 market indices.
Clearly, in this puppet show, the markets themselves are the "puppet masters".
But we may ask ourselves, "Who are the puppets?"
The puppets are made from 8 foot tall
fiberglass mannequins, dressed in gray-pinstriped double-breasted suits,
accessorized with standard-issue red power ties. Large VGA monitors for
heads stream stock ticker symbols and index numbers for the individual
markets. Each puppet movement cues a face animation of the appropriate
finance minister on the monitor head- the face morphing and contorting
in relation to the direction of market movement. The puppets are elevated
and articulated by cables extending down from pulleys supported 25' overheard
on seven individual puppet towers. Surrounding this mechanized market
ballet is an ambient soundscape of shouted buy and sell orders, bells
and gavels, racing heartbeats and terrified curses.
In the middle of the semi-circle arc of puppet towers is a "Blackjack
style" trading table, staffed by a tuxedo-clad dealer. The dealer keeps
up a steady banter of market analysis, beckoning the brave to come forward
and speculate on the index of their choice. Feeling bullish on Germany?
Step up and place your "bet" on the Germany circle. No money please, just
the random ephemera you happen to have with you- keys to unknown locks,
photos of ex-lovers, business cards from clients you'd rather forget,
or whatver else you might find in your pockets, purse or backpack. If
the corresponding puppet goes up, choose your prize from the pile of profit
in the trading pit. If the puppet goes down, you lose your "bet" and build
the pile of profit for the next day trader.
Token Theoretical Elaboration:
The Puppet installation is a gentle commentary on our society's near pathological
infatuation with global stock markets in this era of the "new economy".
At the same time, it is also a serious experiment to map the complex information
stream of financial data onto dynamic objects in the physical world. Our
intention is to re-embody this information ecology in a manner that reveals
some of the character and patterning encoded in the fragments of the data
stream. And during the process, we hope to also laugh a bit at the arbitrary
control this data stream holds over many of our emotional lives and reckonings