From Models to Monsters. Representing the World Economy and its Discontents

A Workshop by the DFG Research Training Group »Cultures of Critique«
July 3rd – 4th, 2018

Participants: Erika Balsom (King’s College London), Florian Hoof (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg), Quinn Slobodian (Wellesley College), Benjamin Young (Independent scholar, New York), Florian Wüst (Independent curator, Berlin)

Whether depicted through maps, models or graphs, conjured as a monster or a ghost, or documented »realistically«, the way the world economy is represented—in the sciences, art, literature or film—plays a decisive role in how we understand of it. During this two-day workshop we will explore the representation of the world economy, its shortcomings, biases, and potentials as it is applied towards three different, yet interrelated fields.

Scientific images and models, which presume to provide an objective description of the market, have been shown to shape and alter its behaviour. The first panel will explore the genealogy of economic discourse concerning the market’s representability, and the ways through which scientific models have shaped markets, from eighteenth-century maps charting commodity flows to mathematical models of financial options. In film and cinema, the uncanny nature of modern economy has been represented, above all, by allegorical figures such as ghosts, demons, and monsters. Bringing together a historical savings bank commercial with contemporary artistic and essayistic films, a short film program will reflect on the depictions as well as the implications of a world economy based on speculating and capitalizing the future.

The complexity of capitalist enterprise on a global scale has long vexed artists and filmmakers who wish to document its workings and social consequences. Following significant economic crises, the first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen a resurgence of artistic practices framed within the »documentary« discourse. With the critique of scientific representation, in mind, the second panel will ask whether »documentary« is a relevant concept when confronted with a world system.

Organisation: Holger Kuhn, Boaz Levin, Judith Sieber, Ying Sze Pek