The Wall Street Project (TWSP) is a study of the financial industry’s preeminent role as a sculptor—of language, materials, social structures, and bodies—both on a local and global level.
Inspired by a 10-months artist residency in the Financial District of New York City several years ago, TWSP has developed into an ongoing and expanding (photographic) documentation of the neighborhood’s historic layers and ongoing changes. From this collection, I will use a wide range of images and observations as local entry points from which I will consider the idea of financial formgiving, which transformed Wall Street from a physical trading place into a global, tech-driven financial ideology.
Since finance is by nature an evolving concept and the Financial District a neighborhood that has been reinventing itself since its occupation by the Dutch in the 17th century, I consider formgiving an apt approach for this study. Additionally, as the complexity of finance and its reliance on mathematics has built high thresholds for non-experts to get involved, its framing as a formgiving entity attempts to circumvent this exclusion while also trying to challenge the industry’s self-serving narratives. Within TWSP I will understand the term formgiving both in its definition as a physical process (e.g. the shaping of matter and the creation of objects both physical and digital) and as a conceptual strategy (e.g. the conceiving of ideas and their formulations into applications), which often coexist and overlap.
While Wall Street and the financial industry have often been addressed through well-worn dichotomies, e.g. good versus evil, Main Street versus Wall Street, etc., my understanding of finance as a driving formgiver will require its recontextualization within art as well as the social sciences (e.g. anthropology, philosophy, economy, etc.). TWSP will engage with current social theories, but also revisit past concepts, for example the framework of “Assemblage” by Gilles Deleuze / Félix Guattari or the idea of a “Social Sculpture” by Joseph Beuys to understand how such concepts have been incorporated into financial formgiving.
Beuys for example encouraged regular people in the second part of the 20th century to become active citizens by using their personal and professional talents to shape and improve social conditions. Distilled into the often misinterpreted manifesto that “Everyone is an Artist,” the artist had hoped that a wider civic movement could perforate the division between creativity, life, and political activism.
Half a century later, the trademark ‘Everyone’s an Investor™’ by the financial trading platform Public shows that what has been perforated instead is the division between life and market. This decades-long and ongoing alignment of formgiving with the logic of finance has not only led to the normalization of the enmeshment of finance into every aspect of people’s lives, but also significantly altered the structures within which people exist: society, government, politics, the built environment, markets, services and goods, etc. These developments in turn have inspired a small group of young libertarian economists and crypto entrepreneurs to propose a new “democratic” voting process that would replace the one-person, one-vote rule with an auction system where voters can purchase votes (as much as they can afford) and spend them according to their individual preferences, turning political agendas into consumable products.
TWSP will render a wide range of examples of financial formgiving into both relatable scenarios and experimental formats for a variety of audiences and venues. The idea is to draw attention to the powerful nature of formgiving—literally and conceptually—and to contribute to the discussion how its monopolization through finance could be approached and challenged. Due to the complex and ongoing nature of the project both in-progress and ‘final’ works will be shared on this website and elsewhere.
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- Claudia Weber (Artist), Dec. 2020