Claudia Maté: Sweet Finances!
1030 Metropolitan Avenue
Runs through August 2, 2014
Open by appointment and on Saturdays from 2:00 – 7:00 PM
Closing reception: Saturday, August 2, 2014 from 7:00 – 11:00 PM
What’s on view: In a gallery decorated with foam shrimp pyramids and office seating, visitors are invited to play around with interactive avatars and graphs which respond to live updates of data from Yahoo! Finance API. In “Global Mood,” you can create a fantasy football team of evil-looking corporate representatives. In “Historic Landscapes,” on a station mimicking a Bloomberg terminal, you can use Maté’s new app to graph stock data for different companies. Users are invited to adjust the time range and the color palette to turn stock data into colorful abstract prints, which you can buy for $1,000 each. A series of those personalized prints hung on the walls surrounding the installation.
Corinna Kirsch: We were told by artist Lorna Mills that Transfer has never looked better than with Claudia’s show. I agree. The space looked the fullest it ever has, but not crowded. There were more objects in the gallery than I’m used to seeing there, and less in the way of wall-based work. We had “Historic Landscapes,” an installation based on a Bloomberg stock-trading terminal that could’ve been straight out of Batman’s high-tech Batcave; the divan with a generic office plant next to it; and “Brown Broker,” a table adorned with squishy foam shrimp perfect for some imaginary reception full of Wall Street-types. Thoughts, anyone?
Henry Kaye: Agreed. The show did look full but not too crowded.
Whitney Kimball: Mmmyesss, I concur. Near the terminal, a card had been placed on a mirrored plate of foam shrimp with the invitation: “SQUEEZE.” Maté’s tastefully-sparse office is like an hors d’oeuvres parlor for sharks.
Henry: I liked how the interactive “Historic Landscapes” Bloomberg terminal installation acted as a sort of nucleus that held the show together. On the screens were the Yahoo! Finance indices that Maté had altered; they had a retro-Internet look instead of that seismic line graph we’re used to seeing. Maté got this look by adding gradients to the background of the graphs and adding randomly sized blocks for arbitrary data points.
I do wish that there had been more indication, maybe in a written statement somewhere, as to which parts of the graph were random and which were based off of stock data. In the end, the images were only discernable as graph-like images loosely related to market forces. The inclusion of frivolous, colorful aesthetic elements and the exclusion of crucial ones (like numbering and labeling of the axes) made them into abstract representations of stock indices and not the indices themselves. I guess, to that extent, it didn’t matter which parts of the graph were random and which were related to the data.
Corinna: It wasn’t clear what those blocks, those cylinders were representing. We thought maybe they represented high-volume trading. But after scrunching up our foreheads for a while, we ended up asking Claudia, who happened to be in the gallery. Yes, she told us, they were just random blocks.
Henry: There was a lot to unpack in this piece. First, she’s dealing with this immense well of information that is publicly accessible, but a majority of the public doesn’t care about or even understand. Then, she takes this cold, imparsable mass of information and tries to inflate it with color and life. Still, if this was her attempt, I’m not sure if it was successful. I felt like the prints were just decorated graphs, ones that might look good on a wall, but weren’t saying anything more than if somebody silkscreened over the Dow Jones.
This isn’t true of her other really successful pieces in the show, which took economic information away from the traditional bar graph, like the demonic brokers in “Global Mood.”
Corinna: “Global Mood” was the show’s highlight: It continuously pulls upon data from Yahoo! Finance, but adds a much-needed human element to finance by changing the avatar’s eyes and faces to reflect happiness when stocks are skyrocketing and anger when stocks are plummeting. A little humanity—that’s all we want in this day and age of feeling like cyborgs, always plugged in to some mechanical extension of ourselves. Her avatars don’t change that—we still seem inhuman when modelled with a digital gloss.
All that said, that work functions differently from the “Historic Landscapes” app and subsequent prints that result from that project. Like Henry, I felt that without any visible numbers or dates on an X-Y axis, you end up with an abstract impression of market forces. Aesthetically, the prints are compelling, but so much information gets lost in Claudia’s translation; are we just making prettier graphs?
Whitney: The reductiveness is anticlimactic because you expect a big high-tech payoff when you walk up to a station of, like, ten different screens. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought the “Historic Landscapes” app’s reduction of data to pure color relationships was kind of brilliant; ideally, a stock broker or a Yahoo! executive would want to buy one of these prints just to appreciate the sheer abstract beauty of money moving around, or “success.” It reduces all of the manipulation of peoples’ lives and futures to the idea of how much you can amass. The art market is like that, too, and is it a coincidence that hollow abstraction rules on the high end?
Corinna: Ha. You’re right—these prints definitely get across a “money is beautiful” kind of idea.
But about that abstraction, it’s a common trope for art, where source material for a project becomes translated beyond any understanding of the original text. When it’s done well, some sort of narrative still remains, or a new one emerges. Here, I’m thinking of Paul Chan’s video “My Birds . . .trash . . . the future” (2004). This 17-minute video brings in all sorts of animated source imagery, ranging from “Waiting for Godot,” the Bible, Biggie Smalls, violence in Iraq, Francisco Goya….In his work, it’s a bit of a mess to try to understand a clear narrative, or how all the characters weave any coherent storyline together. The impression, though, isn’t entirely abstract, and it’s turned into an entirely new drama: All these figures, past and present, have lost their way in this wasteland of continuous violence, as they always have been and always will be.