Complex Financial Instruments

Complex Financial Instruments uses musical metaphors to explore the relationship between affect and the economy through a performance-installation exhibition. A collaboration between artist G Douglas Barrett and economic theorist Leigh Claire La Berge, Complex Financial Instruments turns the gallery space into a treatment center for visitors with financial problems. In our financialized era of debt, precarity, unemployment, and uncertainty, how can one confront forms of economic violence that seem to resist traditional modes of support?

Complex Financial Instruments merges the disciplines of psychotherapy, financial advice, and music to address the problem of creating meaning in an economy based on the creation of money. Participants sign up for therapy sessions presented over the course of four days (June 10–13) in Stuttgart’s Projektraum LOTTE. A visitor arrives at the gallery, greets her new therapist, and begins a 50-minute session of financial therapy. As this process unfolds, an interpretation is provided by a »complex« pairing of musical performers. We begin by training a group of hybrid psychoanalyst-financial counselors who take patients for a series of therapy meetings held in the gallery. Before visiting the gallery, a participant signs up for a 50-minute session with one of our therapists, outlining problems concerning money and finances on an intake form. Located in the gallery display window, two musical performers produce »interpretations« of each therapy session by mimicking the voices of the analyst and patient. A sound-feed of each session is sent to two performers, who are staged in the gallery’s display window. Entering the gallery, the visitor is greeted by several chairs, a small coffee table, and a selection of magazines: a waiting room.

While in the gallery waiting room, the visitor notes on her intake form describing her imminent MFA graduation to be accompanied by excessive student debt. While waiting, she reads another form describing a previous visitor’s upcoming law firm bonus. Upon completing her form, our visitor greets her new therapist, steps into the office room, and begins the therapy session. As they speak, microphones transmit the sound to the two performers staged in the gallery display window. Words, content, and affect travel from the consulting room to the headphones of the musicians who respond by musically imitating the voices of the patient and analyst. In front of the gallery, passersby notice the musicians’ unfaltering concentration along with the intake form outlining the patient’s difficulties. Presented over the course of four days, a different but no less diverse musical pairing is staged each day. Musical duos are assembled from disjointed genres, periods, and styles (e.g. cello and ukelele) so as to suggest a sense of heterogeneity and »complexity.«

That moneymaking financial instruments are often described as »complex« is a feature we both mirror and seek to undermine through a multivalent network that connects conflicting modes of performance and therapeutic counseling. We weave a semantic web of connections around the economic and the psychical, while challenging their respective encodings through performance. In reconsidering recent theoretical interest in the performativity of finance, the project threads psychotherapeutic practice through finance and music. We seek to address the problem of creating meaning in an economy centered on the creation of money. The formal connection between these three modalities (finance, psychoanalysis, music) is found within their temporality, the manner in which they each make a claim on the present and the future.