Michael Goldberg
The context for the project was an international conference discussing how non-linear thinking in the visual and performing arts can improve business management and organizational techniques. My project was presented as a workshop exploring the visual poetry shared between high art and high finance.

I hoped to provoke discussion as to how the business of aesthetics and the aesthetics of business might reveal interesting correspondences in and of themselves. The pretext was an attempt at the psychic, or precognitive divination of the stock market. The exercise occurred during a highly volatile period on global markets – the week of the commemoration of 9/11.

The stock market is generally simplified and represented by the media as a single entity that is either up or down over a given period of time. In fact, it is a far more complex organism made up of many facets, each comprising a vast number of individual transactions. During the course of these manifold dealings the market performs to an elaborate choreography, unfolding daily, minute-by-minute, second-by-second, in a sequence of arabesques and set moves that respond instantly to constantly shifting global sentiments.

Visual representation of this seemingly abstract movement of stocks and other financial markets (see catchingafallingknife.com on this website) is as essential to identifying trends as the arrangement and interpretation of visual elements is to the production of art. The project sought to identify correspondences between these processes, using the gestalt of classic modernist representational and non-representational art as a means to predict stock movements.

The methodology I used to investigate these associations is known as 'Remote Predictive Viewing' (RPV). This process of attempting to predict trends and possible outcomes finds its source in the 'cold war' of the 1950s and 60s and the American CIA's attempts to utilize the innate psychic abilities of specially selected operatives. By using imagery unrelated to the object of investigation, researchers believed that future events, such as assassinations and political upheavals, could be visualized by trained individual's using subliminal association techniques. ‘Remote’, refers to the technique’s attempt to ‘see into’ developing global events from a distance. Although the CIA research was eventually discontinued, the technique has been used subsequently, with varying degrees of success, to try and predict stock market movements.

The project’s Remote Predictive Viewing methodology used a collection of images of representational and non-representational paintings drawn from the New York Museum of Modern Art’s online resources (1910 through to the 1960s). Preparation for the project took place before my departure from Sydney for Banff. Using a randomised double blind process, a particular value was assigned to each image. Images would represent either a rising market (indicated by a green dot placed on the back of the image) or a falling market (indicated by a red dot similarly placed). Using this process, 60 printed images were marked and sealed in envelopes. Six targets were chosen from thirty of the most well-known, high liquidity stocks traded on the NYSE or NASDAQ exchanges. The stocks (American Express, Caterpillar, DuPont, IBM, Oracle, Walmart), identified by their printed logos, were each assigned a folder and each randomly accompanied by ten of the MOMA images. All selections were made using a random number generator and a double blind process, whereby neither the future participants nor I knew the specific contents of the envelopes and folders.

After a brief introduction, I asked participants to concentrate their gazes on the logos and while doing so, if a strong image (or gestalt) were to come to mind in relation to a particular logo, they should draw this on the paper provided – with annotations for the sake of clarity. Four simple drawings resulted from the group in response, and it was only then divulged that an attempt would be made to match the sketches to MOMA images, which having been randomly designated as “up(green)”, or “down(red)”, would result in a market prediction for that particular stock.

With the consensus of the group:

Drawing #1 was matched with René Magritte’s False Mirror, which was located in the IBM folder. The image was found to have a green(up) dot. The actual market result on 9/11/08: IBM rose by $1.16.

Drawing #2 was matched with Pablo Picasso’s Studio, which was located in the DuPont folder. The image was found to have a green(up) dot. The actual market result on 9/11/08: DuPont rose by $1.03.

Drawing #3 was matched with Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, which was located in the Walmart folder. The image was found to have a green(up) dot. The actual market result on 9/11/08: Walmart rose by $1.15.

Drawing #4 was matched with Vincent van Gogh’s L'Allée des Alyscamps, which was located in the Caterpillar folder. The image was found to have a green(up) dot. The actual market result on 9/11/08: Caterpillar rose by $2.03.

As with catchingafallingknife.com, the real value of the project would emerge in the form of interrogations from the dark recesses of its implausibilities, not from the spectacle of successfully meeting its expectations.