MARKET FORCES 2006 (Screen Shot)

reactive net.art
computer, monitor/projector, internet connection


The term 'market forces' describes one of the central concepts of free market capitalism. The belief that the forces of supply and demand alone (i.e. without government intervention and regulation) will result in the best use of resources has become a fundamental dogma. Like the Buddhist idea of 'karma' or 'the Hand of God' in Christianity, market forces are regarded as a naturally occurring phenomenon - these forces are not created by any institution, they just exist. Such natural forces can be influenced (by prayer and righteousness in the case of religion or by PR and advertising in the case of economics) but it is not possible to evade their power.


The monitor shows the entrance to the building that houses the social security office for central Berlin. People are all either walking into or out of the building. The number of people varies as does the speed at which they walk. The upper stories of the building expand as the people go in and contract as they go out as if the architecture is breathing. This cycle repeats endlessly with the speed and volume of people changing over time.

What is seen on screen is determined by live updated stock market data derived from the internet (DAX, NIKKEI, Dow Jones, etc.). If the share prices are rising, with each 'breath', more and more people go in and out. Conversely, when shares are falling fewer and fewer people enter and leave the building. A flat market causes people to walk slowly. If the prices rise or fall more rapidly the action speeds up.

The piece responds to remote events and is thus merely reactive. It could, however, be argued that this opens a deeper level of meaning than the often banal interface between viewer and interactive art work. Stock market statistics are condensed from thousands of individual (trans)actions which, in turn, result from thousands of other factors - trade figures, consumer confidence, political decisions down to individual consumer behaviour. The consequences of these simple numbers are equally multi-faceted - profit, loss, expansion, consolidation, rationalisation, take-over, unemployment.

Market Forces is a playful, non-literal visual representation of global market forces at work, stimulating thought through the transposition into mundane daily life.

Tim Coe