Cornford and Cross
Black Narcissus 2014

Artificial mountain landscape generated from financial graphs

For ‘Show Me the Money’
Group exhibition curated by Alistair Robinson
Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art
Chawton House, Hampshire
John Hansard Gallery, Southampton
Peoples’ History Museum, Manchester
Publication edited by Paul Crosthwaite, Peter Knight, and Nicky Marsh
Manchester University Press

In 2003 we made a work for the London School of Economics, titled ‘The Lost Horizon’. This was a fantasy mountain landscape generated from financial data provided by American Express, which we distributed through the LSE as a computer screensaver. A decade on, we commissioned the digital artist Massimo Verona to use commercial terrain-generating software to fuse the abstract profile of financial graphs with the illusory space of computer generated imagery.

The rise and fall of trade in the vertical scale of the graphs emerges as steep gradients resembling rock faces, cliffs and ravines. The passage of time on the horizontal scale encompasses the historical period 2003—2013. From the US invasion of Iraq, through the Global Financial Crisis, and the emergence of ‘online whistleblowers’, the landscape embodies a decade of trauma, chaos and revolution.

During this period, developments in digital technology have been implicated in the course of events. From High Frequency Trading algorithms in the financial markets, to powerful new tools of simulation, visualization and mapping, advancements in understanding have been undercut by alienation and oppression, heightening the precarious relationship between the actual and the possible.

The title ‘Black Narcissus’ refers to the 1947 film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Set high in the Himalayas, the narrative pictures a colonial venture brought to crisis by the tension between asceticism and sensuality. Reflecting on the futility of trying to shape reality to an image or ideal, the film makes subtle use of visual illusion to lend a dreamlike quality to the mountain landscape, heightening its symbolic ambiguity till it resonates with the force of repressed conflicts.


Financial Times Stock Exchange index 20032013

Study for 'Black Narcissus ' Digital Landscape drawing

Mountain range by Massimo Verona, a digital artist who creates images of pristine natural landscapes for commercial clients.

UNESCO mountains climate change


The Oxford Handbook of Financial Regulation, Oxford University Press 2015