Forecast, 1 – 55
A film by Jane Birkin and Sunil Manghani
Each day millions of us reach for our phones to find out what is going on in the world and what kind of day we might expect to see unfold. The massive yet hidden data structures that surround us neatly render upon these small hand held devices: our own personal forecasting machines. Yet, for all the accuracy of up-to-the-minute information, our own calculations seemingly hold only from one minute to the next.
Through the double glass of a window and a screen, Forecast, 1 – 55 presents a series of ‘markets haiku’ as collected daily, but fleetingly upon the home screen of a mobile phone. Taken together these poems capture the ups and downs of the period of 11 October 2016 to 25 April 2017 – a fracturing conjuncture (spanning the lead-up to the American presidential election and the first round result of the French presidential election). Individually, while generated through a business analysis widget, echoing the algorithmic tools of high-frequency trading, these poems give us pause for thought: A moment of stillness in amongst the data streams. And, like the hypnotic repetitions of the Shipping Forecast, we might be inclined to read these poems aloud. As Geoffrey Batchen notes, with reference to the interplay of picture and spoken verse, as an art somewhat lost today, ‘an aural component … with its rhymes and rhythms, demands to be given voice (even if it’s not literally read aloud)’. In his case, our reading aloud is to re-sound how market trends are themselves a form of listening and murmuring.
The form of the haiku is significant too. We may choose to stop and collect these in one go, like undulating breaths; or we may just take in the one, let it resound like a tuning fork as we head on our way. As Roland Barthes explains, the haiku ‘shows no partiality for the subject … merely saying: that!’. His point of reference was the ‘spirit of Zen’, in which nothing is special, but all is connected – which perhaps today is not so different to the supercomputing of high-frequency trading. In either case, to take Barthes’ account, ‘like a decorative loop, the haiku coils back on itself, the wake of the sign which seems to have been traced is erased: nothing has been acquired, the the word’s stone has been cast for nothing: neither waves nor flow of meaning’.
‘Forecast’ through the window of the Blue Door, Southampton, May 2017.