SØREN THILO FUNDER
Oceanic Horror or How to Survive the Night in the Haunted Mansion of Absolute Capitalism
Søren Thilo Funder is a visual artist working primarily with video and installation. His works are mashups of popular fictions, cultural tropes, and socio-political situations. They are narrative constructions insisting on new meaning forming in the thin membrane negotiating fictions from realities. Invested in the paradoxes of societal engagement, temporal displacements and a need for new nonlinear narratives, Thilo Funder proposes spaces for awry temporal, political and recollective encounters by mixing actual and fictional stories.
Oceanic Horror or How to Survive the Night in the Haunted Mansion of Absolute Capitalism utilizes the genre of horror fiction to create new narratives in a political and time-based artistic practice. It is invested in the temporal qualities and entanglements of the horror genre and how these relate in strange ways, not only to our current tempor(e)ality, but also to art practices using the temporal as material. The research project* on which this exhibition is based, is inspired by horror’s relentless nowness.
The exhibition Oceanic Horror or How to Survive the Night in the Haunted Mansion of Absolute Capitalism is the second installment of Søren Thilo Funder’s two-part exhibition at Kunsthall 3,14, revolving around the realm of finance and high frequency trading. Splashed, from the self-contained trading pools of early high frequency trading, out into the unfathomable oceanic network of fluid relations and associations that constitutes finance trading in the age of Web 2.0. A multi-channel video installation takes over the gallery space of Kunsthall 3,14, bringing together computer-generated image sequences, filmed fiction, video field notes, applied special effects, and the dying art of stockbroker hand signals.
We descend into a submerged imagined interior of an opaque financial structure. In a speculative encounter with the everyday existence within this structure and the social relations of its inhabitants, a competitive world of accumulative desires, self-optimization and self-sacrifice unfolds. Here, the human resources of the high frequency trading firm Archipelago, meander about mechanically and disengaged, power napping, exercising, and networking – always one devise removed from their physical surroundings. Archipelago was one of the first electronic communications network s (ECNs), launched in 1996. The firm merged with the New York Stock Exchange in 2006, forming NYSE Arca, which is today one of the world's largest stock exchanges. Inside this strangely isolated vacuum of complete interconnectedness, something sinister is brewing, not only in the depraved shit talk on message boards, but in the dark corridors and conference spaces as well.
In the exhibition space, makeshift “sleep stations” constructed from generic office furniture make up a series of small islands forming an archipelago. Video sequences play out here as well, forming echoes of Archipelago’s predecessor in the world of trading; the trading firm Island that, spearheaded by tech-nerd and free information idealist Joshua Levine, occupied the trash-ridden offices from where high frequency trading was conceived.
A guided meditation fills the space, leading the visitors out of the bland architecture of a 4-star conference hotel, out into a dream voyage breaking with time and space:
We are at a Bull and Bear fight in Monterey in 1853. The pitting of these two hefty creatures in the arena will later become an analogy for the market; the bear is what makes the market fall, suffocating under its heavy paw; the bull, on the other hand, lifts the market with the virile thrust of its horns.
We are on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 1929 as the stock market crashes, turning the trading pit into a violent frenzy.
We stroll through the corporate township of Cathedral Town: a planned community in Ontario Canada, formed around the newly built Church of Transfiguration; a colossal church that to the new city dweller’s big disappointment never opened to congregation. The town now stretches around the church, strangely soulless, its pivotal point of community eerily vacant. The church, that also featured in John Carpenter’s 1994 horror film “In the Mouth of Madness”, now towers above the town, its steeple always visible above the roofs.
We find ourselves in an airport terminal, resting in a sleep pod. Even in the state of sleep, our body is hardwired into an artificial network allowing us to keep working. The body of the cognitive worker merges with the digital, artificially assisting the nervous system and cognitive functions, making even moments of rest productive and profitable. A whole new cost-effective dimension to the office powernap.
Finally, beyond time, we dive into the internet cables’ darting landscape of extreme velocity and oceanic quantum mechanics.
Outside the meditations, streaming through the AirPods of ambitious young stockbrokers, all motion spirals towards a sacrificial ritual. A sacrifice to the gods of prosperity perhaps. Perhaps just a regulated version of the classic banker suicide.
*The exhibition marks the culmination of Thilo Funder’s Artistic Research PhD at the Art Academy – Department of Contemporary Art, University of Bergen also titled Oceanic Horror or How to Survive the Night in the Haunted Mansion of Absolute Capitalism. The exhibition is a continuation of the exhibition Cable ITCH (I don´t wanna work at Island no more) presented at Kunsthall 3,14 in 2021. The research project searches for a certain condition found in horror fiction that relates to its relentless nowness, a proposed prolonging of this now and its relation to the event and the quasi-event. And finally, how horror fiction wants to do things to the body - not only in a simple reaction mode but really in the very temporality experienced in and by the body.