Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To continue. Notes towards a Sculpture Cycle.
First chapter: Matter

To continue. Notes towards a Sculpture Cycle is a research-based project inspired by a core group of works from the Nomas Foundation collection, which focuses on sculpture, organised in three chapters, each dedicated to a specific aspect of the medium. Through itineraries around the city, a public programme of lectures in collaboration with Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, visits to artists studios and specific collections, To continue. Notes towards a Sculpture Cycle aims to build a dialogue between the present and the past, between the Foundation and the narrative texture of the city.

Matter, the first episode of To continue. Notes towards a Sculpture Cycle, is inspired by the famous series of lectures held by Rudolf Wittkower at Cambridge University in 1970-71. The aim of these lectures, was to examine works on the basis of the working methods used by the artists, while also seeking out lines of continuity and rupture throughout the history of art, from the Archaic period to the present day. In a similar manner, this first episode looks at how works are made, and how their material presence determines their appearance and the way they are perceived. The solid and the void, to carve or to shape, are still the constituent elements of sculpture today – whether the artist works with traditional materials or whether he inscribes the form within a space, or even when giving shape to data, images and sounds that constitute a new and potential matter. 
(to continue)

Curated by Cecilia Canziani and Ilaria Gianni, 
assistant curators Michela Tornielli and Stefano Vittorini

Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Rossella Biscotti, Chiara Camoni, William Cobbing, Michael Dean, Luisa Gardini, Helena Hladilová, Oliver Laric, Else Leirvik, Nicola Pecoraro, Diego Perrone, Timur Si-Qin, Jesse Wine.

On the occasion of the opening a rare documentary dedicated to the Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso, realised for the RAI in 1959 by Alberto Martini, historian and art critic, will be shown.

Opening Tuesday February 26, 2014 6.30 pm
Nomas Foundation,
Viale Somalia, 33 - Roma

February 26 to April 5 | Matter
April 17 - May 27 | Vision
June 5 - July 25 | Scale

To continue. Notes towards a Sculpture Cycle continues Nomas Foundation’s ongoing investigation on visual art’s languages, following A Theatre Cycle, 2013; A Painting Cycle, 2012; A Film Cycle, 2011; A Performance Cycle, 2010. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Spider Hatchlings

 In many spider species the female encloses her eggs in a kind of pouch which she spins round them to provide support.Federica Colombo, Les animaux en société, 1979.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Under the Shade

Under the Shade, 2014.
Wood, acrylic, clay
75 x 27 x 8 cm.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Necessary Incompleteness

Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti, 2012.
Late one afternoon, I was walking with a local friend in the small border town of Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti, when we reached what looked like an impromptu public square. “You see the mosaic promenade?” my friend said. “And the benches over there? We know every great city has a public square, so we decided to build one here.” In the center I saw a concrete column with rebar protruding from the top, surrounded by a spiral concrete wall. 

“And all great public squares have a monument with a statue, right?” he said. I demurred, but he continued: “Everyone in town can agree about that. But whenever we discuss which historical figure should go up on that column, it turns into a fight. We can’t come to a consensus. So we’ve decided to leave it empty. One day, this person will come. And when they do, we will have a place waiting for their statue. This will bring great pride to Anse-à-Pitres.”
Thiotte, Haiti, 2012

You find examples of this typology all around the world: buildings and structures that are activated or inhabited even though their construction is not complete. [1] For the past several years, I’ve been collecting photographs, video and anecdotes of cases in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, the United States, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Turkey. Instead of attempting to explain these approaches to construction or indulging in obvious generalizations, this investigation asks: How can we read these objects in a different way? This is not a study of the “creativity of the poor” or an attempt to improve design practice; my research is motivated by an impulse to produce understandings for which we may not have immediate use.
South Quito, Ecuador, 2012

Some months after I left Haiti, I was presenting my research at the International Academy of Art Palestine, in Ramallah. An artist from the older generation, whose work had given visual expression to the concept of sumud — or "perseverance" — offered a thoughtful response: “You are going to meet people who will tell you that this form of architecture is about optimism for the future. But I can tell you that in Palestine, for me, this cannot be the case. When I see rebar coming from the roofs of the buildings, I see a violent fear of the future. A fear that comes from not knowing what is being passed down from one generation to the next. Previously, we had the olive fields, and there was a rootedness to the land. But what was once a communitarian, horizontal mentality is now individualistic and vertical. No matter how hard people work, no matter how far they extend their efforts, they just go higher and higher, never touching, never making contact with those around them.”
Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2012

People often tell me the reason buildings are left unfinished is so that the occupants can avoid paying property taxes. They come rushing up after talks, excited to report that they know the answer. Perplexed that such a tax loophole could exist in a range of markedly different cultural and climatic contexts, I asked an urbanist friend in Italy what he thought. “It’s an urban legend,” he said — one that is informed and propelled by implicit racism. He pointed out that in Italy this approach to construction is almost entirely confined to the South, where a larger proportion of the population is from a migrant background. “The myth generalizes a group of people who those in power would like us to see as selfish and opportunistic.” 

Last spring, I found myself in Delhi, talking with a group of young architecture students whose professors urged them to move beyond discursive dichotomies — formal/informal, legal/illegal — and to navigate by other means. We tunneled through several thought-provoking detours until one student lost patience and interjected, “When does all this nebulous talking end? When are we going to do something about this?” 

There was silence in the room. After a long moment, one of the professors spoke. “Where is this fear of endlessness coming from? What might we learn when we avoid that urge to do something, and just allow the building to remain endless?


Author’s Note 

Research for The Exhibition of a Necessary Incompleteness was supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

Images, video and text from this body of work were included this past fall in an exhibition at the University Art Gallery at the University of California, San Diego. This essay and slideshow are not a summary of that research but, rather, a point of entry.


1. This is variously referred to as vertical phasing, perpetual construction, or incomplete architecture.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On the Limitations of Behavioral Finance

Behavioral finance has exploded in popularity not just because it’s interesting—regular finance is interesting, too—but because it combines that interest factor with an abundance of what one scholar called “descriptive charm.”
There is something strangely entertaining in reading about the economic foibles of others: one part schadenfreude,  plus one part abashed recognition of one’s own past mistakes—mixed with quiet relief to find oneself  with lots of company in making those mistakes.
Plus, it gives many of us readers great stories that to tell at dinner parties. Being able to talk about the myth of the “hot hand” in basketball, or investor preferences for cash versus stock dividends, can make for a pretty entertaining evening in some circles.
Reading behavioral finance can also provides a sense of Finally Understanding How Things Work when it comes to money and markets. Learning about common cognitive errors in economic decision making, such as “anchoring,” and “availability bias,” feels like getting a peek inside the flawed machines that are our brains, making it seem possible to predict the behavior (particularly the mistakes) of others, and guard against them in oneself. In short, behavioral finance seems to offer insight and a sense of control, imposing order on what otherwise appears chaotic and unpredictable.
But a dozen years after my own personal infatuation with behavioral finance began—by devouringRichard Thaler‘s classics, Advances in Behavioral Finance and The Winner’s Curse—a number of limitations have become obvious.
All research programs have limitations, of course. But those of behavioral finance undermine its purpose: that is, to enhance understanding of financial markets and investor behavior. Others have written eloquently on this subject, particularly Daniel Beunza and David Stark, and John Y. Campbell. What I have to add to this ongoing debate boils down to two points and their consequences:
    1. Failure to acknowledge the findings of the allied social sciences
    One of the cardinal laws in scholarship is to acknowledge the work of others and avoid reinventing the wheel. But when you read works of behavioral finance, you’d never know that deviations from rational, self-maximizing behavior are old news in psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology. Check the references section of a behavioral finance article or book and see how many citations from those fields you can find. Chances are, there will be zero. Behavioral finance scholars generally cite each other, or work from mainstream economics and finance.
    This is particularly strange since so much of contemporary behavioral finance depends on the contributions of social psychologists like Daniel Kahneman (a 2002 Nobel laureate for his work in behavioral finance) and the late Amos Tversky, as well as much older work by people like Herb Simon, who was a Professor of Political Science and Industrial Administration at various points in his career. Simon won the Nobel Prize in economics for work done half a century ago on “bounded rationality“—a concept closely tied to many of the key phenomena examined by behavioral finance, but which is virtually ignored in their publications.
    While a lot of academic research speaks to a rather small group of other academics, behavioral finance is distinctive within the social sciences for restricting its scholarly conversation so tightly. This isn’t the case in the closely-related disciplines of economic sociology, neo-institutionalist political science, and economic anthropology, all of which regularly cite and engage with one another, to the enrichment of all.
    In the case of behavioral finance, reluctance to acknowledge the many research interests it shares with the allied social sciences may be part of the larger project of rigid separation and boundary enforcement that has been carried out by economists since the time of Pareto. This has created what Schumpeter described as a regime of “mutual vituperation”which has kept economics and finance in a state of self-imposed incommunicado with sociology, limiting the advancement of knowledge on our shared interests. Behavioral finance, it seems, is sticking to the party line on this point.
    2. A narrow, limited critique of economic theory
    Cataloging the many ways humans fail to think rationally about money, investments and risk is a good start. But in most ways, behavioral finance leaves intact the problematic assumptions of traditional finance, pulling its punches, so to speak. Among the most noteworthy examples:
    a. Behavioral finance remains stuck at the individual level of analysis 
    As in traditional finance and economics, the object of inquiry in behavioral finance is the individual—despite rafts of evidence going back decades that individuals don’t make decisions about money, risk or investing in a vacuum, but as a result of social influences. Of course, this evidence comes from those allied social sciences that are being so studiously ignored. For example, economic psychologist George Katona showed 35 years ago that most people choose investments based on word of mouth recommendations from their friends and neighbors. This influence of social forces in economic decision-making has been demonstrated with equal or greater impact among finance professionals—for instance, in a study of Wall Street pension fund managers by economic anthropologists O’Barr and Conley, and more recently in a sociological study of arbitrage traders by Beunza and Stark.
    In the past, there were encouraging signs that behavioral finance might break through the limitations imposed by sticking to the individual level of analysis, most strikingly in Robert Shiller’s 1993 statement that “Investing in speculative assets is a social activity.” But thus far, the implications of such statements, and the plethora of evidence supporting them, remain unexplored.
    b. Behavioral finance limits itself to pointing out failures of cognition and calculationAs important as those factors are in distorting financial decision-making, there are a host of others that we know about—based on research in those allied social sciences that behavioral finance doesn’t acknowledge—that are excluded from research in behavioral finance. This includes emotions, and social phenomena like status competition, both of which play a significant role in the findings of economic sociology, psychology and anthropology. The cognitive/calculative failures may interact with the socio-emotional phenomena, but we won’t know as long as behavioral finance pretends the latter don’t exist. That’s a loss for all of us interested in markets, money and investing.
    c. Behavioral finance doesn’t explain how individual acts and decisions produce aggregate outcomesAs a consequence of keeping the analytical focus on individuals—avoiding the social and interactive aspects of economic activity—behavioral finance doesn’t have the theoretical means to address mechanisms through which individual acts and decisions aggregate. That means it can’t explain institutions and other manifestations of collective behavior which form the context for all the individual behavior it examines. Of course behavioral finance can’t answer all questions about money and markets, but it ought to be able to explain what happens when hundreds, or hundreds of millions, of people fall prey to the “hot hand” fallacy or availability bias? If behavioral finance won’t touch questions like that, who will?
The consequences for ignoring the other social sciences and mounting a very narrow critique of traditional finance and economics, include:
  • Limited predictive power
    Behavioral finance tells us more about what people won’t do (e.g., behave according to notions of rationality outlined in economic theory) than what they will do.
  • Contradictory implications
    Are investors risk-averse or overconfident? How should we reconcile seemingly contradictory findings like these? Behavioral finance doesn’t tell us, because of its…
  • Failure to offer a viable alternative to the theories it challenges
    Pointing out all the ways that real life behavior doesn’t bear out the predictions of traditional economics and finance is interesting—even fascinating, at times—but it’s not an alternative theory. “People aren’t rational” isn’t a theory: it’s an empirical observation. An alternative theory would need to offer an explanation, including causal processes, underlying mechanisms and testable propositions.
All this keeps behavioral finance dependent on traditional economics and finance rather than allowing it to grow into a robust theoretical realm in its own right. Perhaps someday the field will develop into something more truly challenging to economic orthodoxy. Until then, behavioral finance will have to play Statler and Waldorf to the Muppet Show of mainstream finance—providing entertaining critique, but not replacing the marquee acts. (Now if economics would just substitute Milton Berle for Milton Friedman….)
by BrookeOct 31, 2010, at 03:34 pm

Milton Berle Vs. Statler & Waldorf

Monday, February 3, 2014

El Muro #18

Los Carpinteros, El Muro #18, 2001, watercolor on paper, John Berggruen Gallery.

The Margins of the Factory

The Margins of the Factory presents two recent projects by the Rotterdam-based duo Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum that are motivated by their interest in art's relationship with labour. Each explores sculptural form and manufacturing processes from the perspective of artists who have not usually made objects. Jaio & van Gorkum undertake what are in part sociological investigations by documenting the local, marginal effects of the displacement of manufacturing industries over the last two generations with the emergence of the global market. Emerging from the artists' personal history and implicating the direct effects of their own vocation as well as work they ask of others, the projects are moreover complicit in asking what kind of industriousness brings value and what political life objects might have.

The exhibition opening features a performance by British “avant-folk” musician Nathaniel Robin Mann, developed in collaboration with Jaio & van Gorkum around the raw footage of Work in Progress and the tradition of work song. Mann interprets the Basque popular song “Oi Peio Peio” – a dialogue between a woman worker and her cruel boss, who insists that she carries on working throughout the night. First collected in Cancionero Popular Vasco in 1918, the song was popularized by singer–songwriter Mikel Laboa, founder of “Ez Dok Amairu” (“No Thirteen”), the cultural movement of Basque poets, musicians and artists whose name was a suggestion of sculptor Jorge Oteiza.

Central to Producing time in between other things (2011) is a selection of wooden objects made by retired factory worker Jos van Gorkum – Gorkum’s grandfather – which the artists documented in the homes of his relations, friends and former neighbours across the Netherlands. During this process, the artists located the original lathe on which these items had been crafted and began to teach themselves woodturning. The forms which they made as they worked at learning a hobby become the means to support the display of the original objects, presented alongside three videos and photography.

Work in Progress (2013) immerses itself in the manufacturing industry of Markina-Xemein, the rural Basque village where Jaio comes from. A video documents the mass-production of rubber car parts, following the pieces from the assembly line in a worker-owned factory to subcontracted workshops where informal workers finish them by hand. Several of these workers are employed by the artists to cast hundreds of replicas of small modernist sculptures. These are displayed on mass-produced shelving to evoke the "Chalk Laboratory" of Basque sculptor Jorge Oteiza, a fierce critic of the commodification of art.

Curators: Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum, 'The Margins of the Factory', ADN Platform, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain, 25 January–30 April 2014.


Marcel Broodthaers, La Conquête de l’espace. Atlas à l’usage des artistes et des militaires, 1975, Lebeer Hossman éd., 50 ex.