Fully Automated Networks Making Art Across the Financial World and Systems of Belief in the Work of Fabio Lattanzi Antinori

By Etienne Verbist - Monday, January 22, 2018
Fully Automated Networks Making Art Across the Financial World and Systems of Belief in the Work of Fabio Lattanzi Antinori

Fabio Lattanzi Antinori: I am an artist working in a range of mediums from sculpture, print, sound, text to interactive installations. My work lies at the intersection of different disciplines, that is why I often collaborate with other artists, thinkers, designers, engineers, scientists and researchers.

 


Etienne Verbist: Who are you and what do you do?

Fabio Lattanzi Antinori: I am an artist working in a range of mediums from sculpture, print, sound, text to interactive installations. My work lies at the intersection of different disciplines, that is why I often collaborate with other artists, thinkers, designers, engineers, scientists and researchers.

EVB: Tell us about your work.

FLA: Through my work, I try to understand mechanisms that underpin notions of belief in the society and how these are shared between individuals. Exploring how the language of corporate systems and economic power can reshape our perception and definition of reality, the creation of value and even influence our language of the interior are also main recurrent themes of my artistic production.

In the last couple of years, my main focus has moved to the world of international finance and some of its more mysterious aspects concerning the relationship between faith and belief. After all, the financial system is kept alive by millions of daily voluntary acts of faith, as Neil McGregor once said. It is this apparent dichotomy of a system being perceived as solid and virtual, that truly fascinates me.

A typical image of the Stock Market on a display.

EVB: What is your goal?

FLA: Keep making art and in the process, to find out what the whole thing is about.

DataFLA:gs. 2014
Somerset paper, screen print, data from the last ten years of Lehman Brothers’ financial trading, electric paint, sound system, custom code, voice soprano (Madge). V&A London. 2.40x1.40x0.05mt

EVB: What is your dream project?

FLA: Something unusual with at least one ridiculous component.

EVB: Why do you do what you do?

FLA: I guess it is my way of learning about life. Life is short, it would be wasted doing something you do not like.

EVB: What role does the artist have in society?

FLA: I think artists embody different roles. The extremely complex world we now live in is the result of at least 150 years of merely one economic model deeply penetrating our lives: a phenomenon that accompanies us in every aspect of our daily existence. I think of Debord’s idea of the spectacle, which assimilates every aspect of culture to the point that no cultural form can exist outside of it. And artists work with culture.

So, in this context, an artist is one who works to contribute to identify and illustrate the way that this type of power works. One who builds metaphors as part of a process of assimilation and interpretation of reality and who, more or less consciously and through personal or direct collaborative action, is capable of pinpointing the interrelationships – often private ones - that such power has with the individuals within the community. This can be from the way we coexist in the space, to the way we imagine and interact with the environment, to the truths we absorb, to the facts we choose to believe in.

In a society where the omnipresent performative role of branding occupies every single space, in order to maximize profit; where everything new can become an opportunity for targeted groups of consumers to merge in semi-divine experiences with their brands. I see art as one of the few remaining spaces where to imagine cultural meaningful operations that would be otherwise impossible to actuate, a large and differentiated space for the preservation of our imagination. And it always comes at a cost.

 

Belvedere. 2014 — 2017. HD Video, no sound, 6'00”. Photo: Marc Doradzillo. Courtesy of Galerie für Gegenwartskunst, Freiburg.

EVB: What themes do you pursue?

FLA: I am ultimately interested in exploring languages and the mechanisms thanks to which they develop, as an attempt to provide an answer to our usual big questions.

EVB: What is your favourite art work?

FLA: I am a big fan of Superflex, I admire Allora ad Calzadilla, Jeremy Deller, Stefanos Tsivopoulos and the list goes on. I have quite a list of favourite artworks, probably enough for another interview…

EVB: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

FLA: The first time my work entered a museum’s collection.

EVB: What do you dislike about the art world?

FLA: I prefer to seek to understand rather than to dislike.

Fortune Tellers. 2016. (Installation View at MoCA Shanghai Pavilion) Screen print on neoprene, extruded aluminium, electronics, custom boxes, microcontrollers, speakers, 3 channels, voices sopranos, forecasts of the Shanghai Stock Exchange obtained through proprietary algorithms and astral chart, code. Approx. 2.45 x 4.5 x 2 mt.

EVB: What role does art funding have?

FLA: It is vital, though difficult to navigate and very competitive. Some works, collaborations, residencies and research simply would not happen without the help of funding bodies and individuals. Or at least they would not in my case. I was lucky enough to receive funding for projects that were taking place on other continents and for which I could use the financial help in order to produce and transport the work, as well as to find a place to stay.  

The role of funding in the arts is of great importance, especially in such difficult times with government cuts and a political power that struggles to recognize the value that art produces in the economic, social and political landscape of the community.

Art is one place where experimentation can happen without the constraint of immediate profit. Funding is mostly important because it helps tackle individual economic disadvantages that would otherwise prevent many artists from being able to develop their practice, exhibit, collaborate and network. It also helps with validation and endorsement; something that artists, especially when they work in the solitude of the studio or travel abroad for production of new artworks or exhibitions, can take very good advantage of.

 

FLA:shcrash Unlimited FLA:shcrash Unlimited. Animated gif. Loop. The artwork is inspired by a closeup of the US stock exchange during the infamous FLA:shcrash of May 6 2010. The looped animation stands as an ironic reminder of the thousands yet smaller FLA:sh crashes that have made their appearance on the financial market; its rough two-dimensional aesthetic, in stark contrast with the pristine realistic background of the WAG white cube where it is displayed, is reminiscent of the FLA:t world of Big Data and algorithmic trading.

EVB: What research do you do?

FLA: I get a lot of inspiration from critical theories and ideas, especially from economists, philosophers, anthropologists and neuroscientists. For this reason, I spend lots of time reading books, essays, meeting people and listening to podcasts and recorded materials, before actually doing something. This is a process, which continues even during the production of the artwork. I have piles of half-read, twice-read and unread books lying around at home and at the studio.

My practice is often collaborative, depending on the project I am working on. I might be working with a perfumer to develop a scent that combines theories of psychology with financial data; or something as practical as going about developing a new approach to a specific technology, by collaborating with engineers and designers; or researching into future predictive algorithms and work with traders, scientists and astrologists trying to predict the future of the stock market. At present, I am developing a new piece that is the outcome of a collaboration with economist Graziano Ceddia, which focuses on ways to expose the effects of a society becoming more and more market-driven.

Our Best Memories, 2014. Digital collages, microFLA:sh crash related unknown financial algorithms, digital photo frames, random transitions (installation view + still frames) Three digital photographic frames, each measuring 20x15cm and containing ten artworks on loop.

EVB: What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

FLA: Try to stay healthy as this is going to require a long effort. Always persevere. 

EVB: What would you have done differently?

FLA: I used to wish I had started making this type of research earlier in life; I spent many years making music. More recently, I have accepted that we are the result of our previous actions, making choices on a path of knowledge towards a higher awareness. I could not be this present version of myself without all the good and the bad things I have experienced. And as I cannot change the past, I have decided to be more concerned with learning from it to make better decisions in the present. I see it as a tedious, beautiful effort to always try and improve what we do and who we are, knowing that it is an unfinished job in a FLA:wed yet intrinsically perfect reality.

Fastlaner Good. 2016. Diastic poem on set of five engraved pens, custom supports. 21x29.7x18 cm. Photo: Marc Doradzillo. Courtesy Galerie für Gegenwartskunst.

EV: Which use of technology do you practice and or do you combine different technologies in your work?

FLA: I find it hard to separate technologies from one another. My main concern, fascination and curiosity lies in data and with its role of providing knowledge, hence power, in our present society.

Once the data is chosen, then the media varies. There is a lot of DIY culture in what I do and some of my artworks could really look like devices that would fall under the ‘Internet of Things’ category, if they were put on sale in a design shop or hosted on a brilliant page of a pre-made WordPress site. Context is king I suppose as it deeply influences the social, cultural and economic object of the conversation; and especially these days, when the boundaries between disciplines or sectors of human knowledge are becoming so liquid and difficult to identify, categories do not seem to last too long. On the other hand, digital technology is so pervasive that it is becoming increasingly harder for all of us to go about our lives without engaging deeply with it, one way or another, willingly or not.

I make use of and refer to digital technology, as a language to provide a critique of the actual system in which I live. The system speaks to all of us through it, so I must use it, appropriate it and reverse engineer it if needs be, in order to make space for meanings, associations, networks and possible scenarios.

EVB: What is the role of the people, the crowd in your project?

FLA: My works would not exist without them.

 

A New Evidence. Interactive Screen print, framed. Screen print on Somerset Velvet, paint, antidepressant, microcontrollers, speaker, custom sensors, voice of opera singer, data from dark pools 80 x 120 cm. Courtesy The RYDER Projects. V&A London.

EVB: How can they participate in your project?

FLA: Much of my artworks shares a physical, three-dimensional presence, as the translation of digital aspects into our denser reality. As such, in the majority of times the audience participates with their physical presence, by decoding the experience in their own personal and subjective way. Sometimes they do this in unexpected ways, turning the initial meaning of a specific piece upside-down and in so, offering a new perspective on the concept or the form of the work itself.

EVB: How are you connected with the people or the crowd?

FLA: We share languages and stories in a mutually influential relationship.

EVB: The crowd economy creates meaningful experiences and shared value. How do you see it for your work?

FLA: When it comes to crowd economy, it is particularly difficult to fully identify and understand the relations of power existing in and around it. There are so many essential components that remain in the dark, whose intrinsic nature is derived on assumptions we gather from experiencing off-line reality and which, when applied to digital life, simply do not work.

Trust is of uttermost importance in crowdsourcing and still the same platforms we use daily are based on non-transparent infrastructures.

The data we leave behind is being used, more or less in real-time as part of fully automated networks, to feed digital advertising. Thanks to online tracking behavioural algorithms, there is a constant correlation between our activity on-line and the generation of private, non-shared profit in the hands of those corporations that ultimately run the same platforms. If this sounds a bit too much like a conspiracy theory, it is because there is a diffused feeling, among many of us, that there might be a conspiracy of power limiting our resources and opportunities.

We need trust in order to co-exist as a community, but we also live in an age where we find it increasingly difficult to exercise trust. As Nato Thompson declares in Seeing Power, there is an extensive, global and publicly-declared war on meaning.

How can we trust the media we are using, the news we hear and overall, the genuine idea of information in the age of alter-reality, without thinking for a second that there might be a political or economical agenda behind algorithms writing news and trading on the market, facial manipulation technologies and seamless audio editing that allow you to be the puppet-master of every influential politician or individual? I feel that, thanks to being exposed to different types of advertising and similar information techniques, we are becoming more and more aware of the genuine aspect of our daily experiences and we value those that grow outside the direct involvement of branding and corporations, which instead appropriate sectors of human culture for private profit.

Can we implement policies that call for transparency, at least in digital infrastructures as professed by ideas such as stacktivism and open-data culture; in other words, can the Internet ever be free? All these aspects, issues and questions deeply inspire my artworks.

Latency Docet. 2016. Extruded aluminium, acrylic, custom supports, data from dark pools, electronics, custom perfume (created in collaboration with Sergey Dziniruk), divided in its constituting four accords, four custom sprayers. 180 x 180 x 245 cm 70

EVB: Co-creation and participation are emphasized in the crowd economy and communities take an active stake in crafting positive futures.

FLA: Certainly, but the platforms that host digital interactions are also controlled systems, whose invisible interfaces too often fail to deliver a complete transparent and balanced relationship between all participants. So, on one side you have a community wanting to co-create, on the other a series of interested companies wanting to provide opportunities and means to improve their profit by selling a specific product or service to an interested audience. And in between are often a growing number of entrepreneurs that can link the two, by providing the necessary database that the community produces to attentive buyers. It is an interesting evolution of the old direct mailing systems or if you prefer, door-to-door salesman operations. As we become more and more dependent on these platforms, we risk missing the ability to see valuable alternatives to the platforms themselves and become increasingly unaware and oblivious to the consequences that our digital personas have on the virtual and non-virtual dimensions.

EVB: How do you use the crowd?

FLA: It provides an endless source of inspiration.

EVB: How do you interact?

FLA: My works are the result of an ongoing conversation with myself, informed by considerations over the way our language is being shaped by the continuous decoding of a shared reality. This dialogue exists on very different levels and it progresses by following a circular motion, touching upon specific places or artistic production and dissemination, from the studio to the gallery or museum space.

EVB: How do you handle feedback?

FLA: Feedback is good, be it good or bad. 

EVB: How do you create the interaction?

FLA: It evolves more or less naturally as the consequence of creating a specific artwork, if the artwork requires it. It takes place within closed territories of predetermined and evolving rules.

EVB: What are the results?

FLA: The meaning of the artwork changes through the experience it provides; as a result, the piece conceptually evolves, depending on the context and on the interaction with the audience.

Some aspects of the works I make will only be revealed after months of continuous and specific interaction and should that not happen, they would otherwise lie silent and unnoticed within the body of the piece itself.

EVB: How do you measure results?

FLA: To measure the outcome of a specific show or artistic production can be tricky; sometimes it will take ages for something to happen as a direct or more or less indirect result of having had a show or having made something, somewhere.

 

Anomaly, Crude Oil 0513. 2016. Extruded aluminium, data from financial anomaly. 25 x 210 x 55 cm. 

EVB: How do you measure the effect?

FLA: On a general level, I keep records and documentation from different exhibitions and try to gather meaning out of it. I also make use of more specific tools, designed by funding bodies and arts organisations. 

EVB: Why participate in your project?

FLA: Why not?

EVB: On which segment is your activity or platform based on the segmentation of the crowd economy?

FLA: My activity and presence are quite transversal. I participate a lot in online communities, non-equity based crowdfunding, citizen engagement and support and more or less directly, in some causes initiated either by non-profit organisations or individuals.

EVB: What Social Media do you use?

FLA: Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/188359973 (documentation of Fortune Tellers at the MoCA Shanghai)

https://vimeo.com/124336939  (documentation of Mantra at the Guest Projects in London)

https://vimeo.com/117366607 (documentation of DataFLA:gs at The Guest Projects London)

https://vimeo.com/50488232 (documentation of The Obelisk a Goldsmiths)

Twitter: fabio_la

Facebook: fabio.l.antinori

Instagram: FLA:ntinori

http://fabiolattanziantinori.com

Image on top: 

Belvedere. 2014 — 2017. HD Video, no sound, 6'00"

Photo: Marc Doradzillo. Courtesy of Galerie für Gegenwartskunst, Freiburg. The video is made out of digital compositions realized with visual data taken from financial anomalies known as microFLA:shcrashes, as they were recorded on financial markets over the last four years.

Etienne Verbist is an authority in the field of crowd sourcing, disruptive business modelling and disruptive art. After a well filled career with companies such as GE, Etienne was an early adopter of crowd sourcing. Etienne is manager Europe and Africa for Crowd Sourcing Week, a board advisor to a broad range of companies on innovation and new technology, curator of the Disruptive Art Museum – the smallest museum in the world – and columnist for ArtDependence Magazine.

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