The first Global Volatility Summit that we produced in 2010 for a consortium of hedge funds and banking institutions was such a huge success that it came back bigger and better last week in a transformed, empty floor of a lower Manhattan office building. With all that is currently taking in place in Japan, perhaps this summit was timelier than before, as well.
"World Volatility" is not fun in any way, nor is it a strong visual, so it is a radical challenge for us to turn something that is essentially a conceptual idea into something that is a visual idea. But while difficult, it is also radically rewarding artistically. After banging our heads against the wall for many weeks, we hit upon that sweet spot where art meets information to create something NEW. We looked to the major tail events of history: The Bursting of the American Housing Bubble, Black Friday, The Great Stock Market Crash of 1929, The Cuban Missile Crisis, Tulip Mania, The Oil Crisis of the 70’s and more to create a series of sculptures that commemorate these occurrences in evocative and visual terms. We also used the currencies of the world as a graphic language to further subvert. Since the conference is really all about making money at the end of the day, why not use actual money as part of the installation?
Upon arrival, a grand, sinking ship with dramatic plumes of baby’s breath smoke is backed by a giant dollar bill that has been volatilized. Note the genius touch of Karen Hsu of Omnivore whose subtle upside down “volatility” in the graphic uses type so smartly to point back to the theme.
Commemorating Tulip Mania as a prime, historic example of a large economic bubble burst, the term metaphorically refers to the period in the Dutch Golden Age when the price of single tulip bulbs reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. Thus, we created a tulip out of Dutch Guilders.
Honoring the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 with a sculpture that commemorates the date itself. A three dimensional “1929,” upholstered in the daily paper’s stock pages is frozen in action, it’s numbers crashing to bits.
Creating a series of unique graphics, each subverting a world currency to illustrate various tail event stories -- The Collapse of the Berlin Wall, The Crashing of the South Sea Bubble, and Tiananmen Square, for instance, all carry the theme of the day with a wink and nudge.
The dot com bubble burst is “drawn” in welded steel.
There are many surprises in this day-long conference that prides itself as being anything but hum drum and run of the mill. To signal the start of the program and the end of breakfast, a “Spontaneous Musical” in which the actors, who on first glance were part of the wait staff or were actual guests, burst into song when a “waiter” accidentally drops a tray to a great clang . . .
The day was a great success, and we have already started thinking about next year. In 2010, a grand marching band signaled the commencement of the program, parading right on through breakfast, and after this year’s “Musical,” everyone is now asking, what will you possibly do next year? Let us know if you have any great thoughts. Any and all wacky ideas are welcome!