Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Mid-Year Stock[exchange]take

Shanghai Stock Exchange
The news that China's stock markets are tanking brought to mind German photographer Andreas Gursky. Huh? Let me explain. Usually these news stories are accompanied by the most awful stock footage known to humankind. I believe every news network in the world has the same 45 sec loop of concerned people standing before the electronic ticker boards. I gather they have two versions: one for a good day of trading (a whole lot of green and happy people) and one for terrible days of trading (a sea of red; balding middle-aged men who by the end of the package have no hair). 

The very existence of such stock footage begs the question: who the hell visits a stock market foyer for updates these days anyway!?? You know your iPhone? That stocks app you never use? Well, that can do the same thing.

But I digress.

This particular story about the Chinese market debacle on ABC News 24 utilised actual footage from the actual floor of the actual Shanghai Stock Exchange...and what a revelation! Used to seeing the (probably anachronistic) chaos of Wall Street, the Shanghai exchange looks like a never-used sporting arena for sharebrokers. Its size and order fits the image China constantly projects to the world, at once recalling the precision of military parades and the immensity of Communist Party proceedings.

As someone with keen interest in photography (and owner of a couple of cameras myself), I couldn't help but make comparisons to Andreas Gursky's megaphotographs™ of various Bureax d'Change le Stocks around the world.

Gursky, famous for his use of digital manipulation to create his vision, produces photographs possessing hyperrealistic qualities. Such methods are particularly suited to the largely computerised and data-driven world of share trading. Trillions of dollars changed hands daily, with neither physical money or hands involved. His images of global stock exchanges are striking, not only for their detail and physical presence, but as a marker of changing technology and cultural values around the world. But of course such differences are superficial. Regardless of the religio-cultural differences between the states these images were captured, stock exchanges are modern temples built to honour the modern god of capitalism.

Andreas Gursky, Singapore Stock Exchange, 1997, Chromogenic print, face-mounted to acrylic, 1321 x 2356 mm, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Andreas Gursky, Tokyo Stock Exchange, 1990, Photograph, colour, Chromogenic colour print, 1880 x 2300 mm
Andreas Gursky, Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Diptychon (Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Diptych), 1994; chromogenic prints, 73 in. x 176 in. (185.42 cm x 447.04 cm); Collection SFMOMA
Andreas Gursky, Hong Kong Börse II (Hong Kong Stock Exchange II), 1994, chromogenic colour-print face-mounted to Plexiglas in artist's frame, 2064 x 3195 mm
Andreas Gursky, Kuwait Stock Exchange II, 2008, C-Print mounted on Plexiglas in artist's frame, 2315 x 3070 mm
Andreas Gursky, Chicago, Board of Trade, 1997, colour coupler print face-mounted on Plexiglas, 1854 x 2416 mm

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