Digital Panicoutside the circle

Risk Management

2020 By Agnieszka Kurant
an image of a map of the world, on a light blue background. The map has
various shapes (i.e. circle, triangly, square, polygon, stars) of varying
colours (i.e. red, green, yellow, orange). These shapes lay over different
countries, on the bottom side of the page there is a large key, detailing
what each symbol means.
Agnieszka Kurant, Risk Management, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

For artist Agnieszka Kurant, there is no such thing as individual intelligence. Instead, our culture relies on acts of collective intelligence and communal authorship – from oral storytelling to open-source software. Kurant sees history, too, from the aggregate perspective. For her, this history includes not just real events but also those that exist due to a collective belief or delusion. Such ‘phantoms’ have no less impact on our culture than the ‘real’.

Risk Management is Kurant’s global survey of outbreaks of social contagions and their impact on the global economy and politics – from 17th-century tulip mania (the first financial bubble) to modern mass hysteria about UFO sightings and laughter epidemics. Risk Management suggests our inability to predict complex social behaviour, even with more creative scientific methodologies.

Today we may have ever-more advanced technologies that claim to mitigate risk, but artificial intelligence cannot fully account for the irrationality of human behaviour. By excavating the immaterial stuff of our collective fantasy, Kurant provokes us to consider how the invisible, and even the impossible, affect our society, and whether these are forces we’ll ever be able to control.