NASATAK jukebox

interfacetestNASATAK,work in progress

1. short single channel (for screening) TRT: 10:00
2. database- interactive web art
3. database slot machine sculpture (series of 10)


How does one interpret ‘well-being’ in a consumer society? Plenty of food and water, a healthy child, a higher life expectancy, a large family, fertile land, leisure time, financial security, the GDP etc.? The issue of measuring social progress with economic performance has become important because of the concern that current standard measures such as the stock market may encourage production-oriented societies to move in the wrong direction. (1) Stocks are up, the markets are doing well, the economy on the rise, the GDP has risen, are indicators that may or may not translate as improvement in the social welfare of its citizens.  In fact the NASDAQ or Dow Jones Index may reflect the reverse situation as was the case in the 1990’s in the US where one witnessed a rise in stocks and a lower quality of living standards compared with the previous generation. Just because the top 500 companies or even largest 5000 technology companies are thriving does not mean all members of the society find an improvement in their lives. The current social distress for Americans (the 99%) is about such discrepancies between the increase in profits of large corporations and the decline of the average individual income.

To use a NASDAQ graph to reflect the state of Americans’ well-being is equivalent to comparing a Hollywood musical with reality. They are both poor translations. However, stories that retell the same plot of the underdog who saves and conquers all, can be analogous to  the cyclical drama of prosperity and crisis of the stock market. In short losers win, winners lose. When stocks plummet we know they will rise and fall once again. The unpredictable becomes predictable over increases in time. This comparison of the stock market with Hollywood cinema is the foundation of the database-generated video NASATAK.


In NASATAK micro scenes alluding to progress (i.e.climbing, flying, ascending) and decline (i.e. falling, diving, descending) are sampled from hundreds of American popular films. Images borrowed from our cultural bank(2) become symbolic currency. The characters’ gestures relate directly to a point in time and value as seen in a dip or rise in the market. One can also translate the rising and falling gestures of the characters as religious symbols descending into purgatory or rising into heaven, attaining enlightenment or the contrary regression of values. Even here spirituality in a capitalist consumer society is reduced to monetary values. The rich go to heaven and the poor to hell. Our favorite actors of Hollywood cinema illustrate the daily announcements of the NASDAQ or Dow Jones is 3 points higher. This rise in stocks is translated by John Wayne, Robert Deniro, James Stewart and … climbing mountains in 2 seconds.

1. Measuring Economic Performance, Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Jean-Paul Fitoussi
2. Cultural Bank is an allusion to Max Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno’s development of the term culture industryto call attention to the industrialization and commercialization of culture under capitalist relations of production (1972).


NASATAK is a database driven video project that plays on our memories of popular cinema to gauge the status of the American economy. Underlying this comical depiction of prosperity and crisis reveals the ability of art to express a societie’s collective will and anxiety of defeat.  The database draws mostly from American cinema with a few international films peppered throughout.

The age of information has prompted a plethora of visual tools to depict, organize and explain this excess of data. With perpetual up to date statistics, graphs, analysis of international money markets, a constant anxiety looms of the inevitable downside even during periods of growth and optimism. Visual snippets from hundreds of films serve specific points on a NASDAQ graph representing a given time frame. Strung together are clips of a climb or a fall, an apex or a bottom out.

A database is built by assigning each video clip a category grade (ie 45, 90, 135, 270 degrees).  The order of the clips change according to the user who  can input a range of dates (ie 1930-1960) that then generates a NASDAQ graph. Two video windows organized side by side display both the graph and the 5-10 minute random film. Similar dates will generate the same graph however, each time the film is created random clips are drawn from the database which currently contains roughly a thousand clips which will double by end of 2014.

The project will eventually take three forms:  database driven internet art, a single channel video for screening as well as an interactive video sculpture in the form of a slot machine. The single channel video of 10 minutes includes approximately 300 films and 500 film clips. To date the single channel piece is estimated to debut in summer  2014.

The second version will be the web-based project.  The database programming using Max will be the backend of the project. This part will be on-going as additions to the database will continue until I have exhausted video libraries. However this stage will go public once 1000 film clips are inside the database.

The slot machine version will be complete sometime in 2015 once the web version has gone public.  It will require design and building of the slot machine which will include:  two screens, a computer, an input device, a lever as well as a place to deposit the coin. Ten of these will be installed in private waiting rooms.