Sylvia eckermann

Sylvia eckermann

Plastic Trade-off, 2006, conceptual layout

plastic trade off

— Meta-performative Game in Real Time

Intervention into Global Financial Markets and Exchanges.

Plastic trade-off by Sylvia Eckermann and Gerald  Nestler was a permanent installation at: WORKING_WORLD.NET Living and working in the midst of globalization, Museum Arbeitswelt Steyr, A. 2006

Plastic trade-off is a light sculpture as well as a virtual knowledge space. It visualizes global financial markets and thus a core element of global economy. The real-time data of specific markets are translated into abstract light flows which reflect this global system in a dynamic work of art.


Plastic Trade-off can be described as a “tableau artificiel-vivant,” alive like a cyborg, artificial like a city. It resembles a living organism, or rather, societies of living organisms that move, manifest, exchange, and reproduce. It oscillates among information, transactions, transformations, institutions and the cyberspace.

Plastic Trade-off undertakes a visual approximation of the volatile rhythms of financial markets and their diverse contexts and dependencies. The project traces in real-time the social life of (im)material values that do not originate from the liberal notion of a single market but arise from a fabric whose historic development spans modernity by way of incorporating a net of constantly growing global penetration, expansion, colonization, sophistication, and virtualization.

Plastic Trade-off goes beyond representation; it is not purely symbolic: it is the global financial market in real-time, visualizing its constructed territory as a medium of world- and value production whose antithesis is also rendered visible in the enormous voids between the nodes and spaces it occupies. A semi-transparent cluster-fetish, it creates in flashing emulation a social creature of communication, a virtual medium of market valuation. Plastic Trade-off sheds light on the inherent ambiguity: it reveals the affirmative potential of a “market moneyfesto” and at the same time is a critical emblem of capitalist exploitation.

Project Genesis

In the process of conceptualizing an artwork on global financial markets, complex questions arise on a variety of topics of an economic, social, political, cultural and artistic nature. These include issues related to the visualization of the economic system in its currently paradigmatic implementation of media-technological financial markets; regarding the logistics of global distribution as well as distributional justice; social changes and developments due to capital’s claims for constant liquidity and thus the issue of its biopolitical power; the dissolution of proximity and distance in the virtual space of trading without equivalent on site; current counter-emancipatory forms of colonialism; but also liberating potentials that offer new possibilities and approaches of resistance; and finally, the question of how to approach the realization of such a project artistically.
Subsequently, the major exchange places, markets, and influential international institutions were defined. The resulting global map was imported into a 3D-software, and the places were then connected in relation to the markets. What resulted was a 3D-visualisation of the global financial system. The underlying “globe” of the virtual 3D-model was deleted and what remained was the sculptural framework of Plastic Trade-off. Finally, an exact miniature was 3D-printed that served as the architectural template for the construction of the light sculpture.

Plastic Trade-off was realized in 2006 as a permanent installation for WORKING–WORLD.NET, Working and Living in Globalization, Museum Arbeitswelt, Steyr, Austria. Additional credits: Light engineering: LDDE Vertriebs GmbH | Technical assistance: Thomas Sandri. Technik für Kunstwerke | Interface programming: Matthias Strohmaier | Real-time financial market data supplied by: TeleTrader Software AG, Scientific explanations (posters accompanying the artwork): Beat Weber. Specifications: Size: 370 x 400 x 380 cm, Weight: approx. 60 kg, 7 light strings composed of 1500 LEDs in different colors, mounted inside acrylic glass discs, 4 light strings with flashing lights running in both directions with variable speeds, 2 light strings, pulsating, 1 with variable speed, 1 light string, static light, Structural framework and data/power lines (4mm insulated copper wire) are identical. Steel wire suspended and fixed the construction. Computer engineering: real-time market data are imported from the Internet through the API (Application Programming Interface) of a market data provider into a customized program which analyses the data according to market affiliation and movement. The market data movements are assigned to scales of values corresponding to the markets/light strings. These constantly updated values are transported to DMX software that assigns speed and direction. Via DMX boxes the data are transported to the corresponding light strings.

Sylvia Eckermann

plastic trade-off, installation view
Photos: Walter Luttenberger

plastic trade-off, installation view

Sylvia eckermann

North America

Sylvia eckermann


Sylvia eckermann