Market Fitness

5.4 / Valuing Labor in the Arts

Market Fitness

By Christian Nagler April 3, 2014

Written in collaboration with video artist Azin Seraj.

Market Fitness is an ongoing popular pedagogy of finance, which attempts to ground financial abstraction in kinesthetic experience. The present dossier includes various ephemera and an extended description of the project.


When the market for financial derivatives was launched in 1973 it took less than two decades to grow into the largest market in the world. It is a market hardly ever seen directly, but rather kinesthetically intuited in terms of the high value of “circulation” relative to “real production.”

We might feel this shift as a hyperactive increase in motion and communication, as seemingly irreconcilable rifts between the needs of the body and the demands of the monetary system, or as resistant impulses to establish our own more tangible circuits of accountability. Whether fatal or profitable, however, the question remains: how to exist as ordinary bodies in relation to “unlisted, virtual, offshore” entities that “operate in an unregulated electronic space using a secret proprietary trading strategy to buy and sell arcane financial instruments.”1

Christian Nagler’s set of participatory performances, Market Fitness (2011-12), experimented with how to respond physically to the scale and opacity of global finance. Nagler developed the project amid the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis, as part of the organizing explosion of the Occupy movement, when popular pedagogies of finance were emerging as new forms of economic vernacular. Against these pedagogies, Market Fitness juxtaposed the movement vocabulary of the aerobic workout.

Working alongside a virtual avatar broadcasting from various sites marked by economic systems—including the former Pacific Coast Stock Exchange (now an Equinox gym), oil refineries, cattle fields and foreclosed homes—Nagler brought these two practices together in a kinesic experiment in information processing, pairing clarifying lessons on liquidity, derivatives, FOREX exchange, commodities futures, and Sharia finance with vigorous aerobic warm-up and group movement exercises.  

The lessons questioned the practical, moral, and theological bases of our financial infrastructure at the same time as they attempted to recode information somatically—integrating extremes of effort, exhaustion, and relaxation with the cognitive endurance of understanding systems. Research for the lessons came partly from ongoing conversations Nagler held with experts in the financial world: traders, financial engineers (quants) and economists.

Market Fitness was first developed at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Spring 2012, and was subsequently staged at galleries and museums and at many gyms, fitness stores, and community centers around the US.

Download the PDF of the Market Fitness liability release form here.

Notes

  1.  Edward LiPuma and Benjamin Lee, Financial Derivatives and the Globalization of Risk (Durham, NC; Duke University Press, 2004).

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