There are some realms that fall beyond the demands of contemporary transparency. The most obvious is the covert work carried out by intelligence agencies, but this also pertains to the opaque world of finance capitalism. How does the general public encounter these shadowy practices?
In this talk, Clare Birchall will outline her work on the aesthetics of the secret and argue that opacity should not be the preserve of the covert state or finance capitalism, but put to use in the service of radical equality. By testing the limits of both revelation and concealment; by populating their world with illusionists, proxies, speculators and actors; by creating mysteries and tricks to match those of the market, Goldin+Senneby are key players in an appropriation of the secret.
Tim Melley has come up with the term ‘the covert sphere’ to describe the cultural imaginary created through spy fiction and films. Apart from revelations by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, such a sphere constitutes the public’s only ‘access’ to the world of covert intelligence operations.
Financial institutions could also be described as having a corresponding covert sphere: a discursive and aesthetic space in which the opacity and obfuscation exercised by brokers and traders is countered. This covert sphere might constitute films such as The Big Short or the US National Public Radio podcast Planet Money, for example. But it would also include works of ‘imaginary economics’ (Velthius, 2005) including many of Goldin+Senneby’s projects included in this retrospective.
Clare Birchall is a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Culture at King’s College London