Jim Mason: NAFTA Stock Puppets

  • ©,



    NAFTA Stock Puppets


Creation Year:



    Interactive Installation



Artist Statement:

    The “NAFTA Stock Puppets” are an Internet-driven kinetic installation that tracks the movements of global stock markets with seven larger-than-life marionette puppets. Using a real-time data stream, a network of PC laptops, and a complex electro-mechanical control system, the installation reanimates the abstract machinations of global financial markets as an absurdist carnival puppet show.

    Unfortunately, the script for this puppet show remains a bit hazy. One moment, we might find the NASDAQ puppet soaring 20 feet into the air, consumed with the latest IPO elation. The next moment, without apparent reason or warning, the Nikkei puppet might fall to the ground, crumpling into a fetal posture of weakness and desperation. From the opening to the closing bell, the puppets continue to rise and fall in serendipitous synchronicity with the “arbitrary” movements of the G-7 market indices.

    In front of the puppet towers you will find a “Blackjack-style” trading table, staffed by a tuxedo-clad dealer. Feeling bullish on Germany? Step up to the trading table and place your “bet” on the Germany circle. No money please, just the random ephemera you happen to have with you – keys to unknown locks, photos of ex-lovers, business cards from clients you’d rather forget, or other random ephemera you’ve collected around SIGGRAPH. If the corresponding puppet goes up, choose your prize from the pile of profit in the trading pit. If the puppet goes down, you lose your “bet” and build the pile of profit for the next day trader.

    The Puppet installation is a gentle commentary on our society’s near pathological infatuation with global stock markets in this era of the “new economy.” At the same time, it is also a serious experiment to map the complex information stream of financial data onto dynamic objects in the physical world. Our intention is to re-embody this information ecology in a manner that reveals some of the character and patterning encoded in the fragments of the data stream. And during the process, we hope to also laugh a bit at the arbitrary control this data stream holds over many of our emotional lives and reckonings of self-worth.

Affiliation Where Artwork Was Created:

    The Long Now Foundation