Geissler & Sann

volatile smile – Ein uneinschätzbares Lächeln.

13 August–11 September 2011
Opening: 12 August 2011


NGBK, Oranienstraße 25


Geissler & Sann

Project group RealismusStudio

Edda Kapsch, Jan Ketz, Christin Lahr, Frank Wagner, Susanne Weiß


Michaela Richter

Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann address the current worldwide economic crisis in a complex exhibition. A new installation especially designed for the show at the NGBK will be on display, accompanied by four seemingly very different sets of subject matter deriving from earlier groups of works.

The “volatile smile” of the exhibition title describes what is fleeting, inconstant, incalculable, even explosive, and is also a pointed adaptation of an expression from the world of finance, the “volatility smile.” The latter term refers to the graph of the implied volatility of an option or derivative, and resembles a semicircle open on the top. The curve reflects the phenomenon of an option tending to have a lower implied volatility when the price of the underlying asset is close to the exercise price of the option. The curve has been called a smile both because of its shape and because it can be interpreted as laughing at the extremely sophisticated, yet thus far unsuccessful efforts made to model it.

“Volatile Smile,” 2011: For the exhibition, the artists took an in-depth look at the territory of the commercial and financial sectors, examining the offices of trading companies in Chicago through photographs and extensive interviews with traders, programmers and businesspeople. This material from the stage settings and playgrounds of the daily flow of money, already revealing in and of itself, and both imposing and frightening in its roughness and compactness, has been rendered into an impressive installation in the main part of the exhibition.
There is no trace of the now-vanished flickering changing columns of numbers running across the screens, synchronizing global markets and commodity exchanges, nor of the billions of computations driving their automated trading on the basis of algorithms known only to insiders. Charts, churns and clearing houses have all been turned off. And the black screens are the traders’ true dystopic moment.

“the real estate,” 2008: When Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann moved to Chicago, what was then generally called the real estate crisis was at its peak. Themselves looking for a place to live, the artists were confronted by the collapsing market for apartments and houses, and in the same year began working on an extensive series of photographs, “the real estate,” showing the interiors of houses up for foreclosure sale in Chicago.
The depopulated spaces of private houses, as Geissler and Sann have precisely photographed them, can be read as a result of the calculations of major financial and business enterprises, as a concrete consequence of the crisis, and as feedback from virtuality into reality.

“Rhinoceros, Nuremberg,” 2004: At first the image of the rhinoceros seems out of place among the other components of the installation. But doesn’t the rhinoceros, in its primeval appearance, make reference to a much larger story in which even a stock market crash is only one event?

The simulation of reality in conjunction with violence and structures of power has been a theme of the artists’ for quite some time now, whether in computer games, children’s games, music videos and military maneuvers.
The photograph “SY-MAN, 98,” 2001 portrays a participant in a LAN party. He is captured in the moment of killing in the virtual space of first-person shooter game. His facial expression is a smile that is tense, excited and ambivalent.

On the occasion of the exhibition, an artists’ postcard book will also be published (42 postcards, color, wire-o-binding, perforation), with texts by Brian Holmes and an introduction by Frank Wagner.


volatile smile
Ein uneinschätzbares Lächeln

Supporting program

14.8.2011: 17.00:

with Beate Geissler & Oliver Sann

16.8.2011: 19.00:

Brian Holmes, cultural critic and social theorist, lives in Chicago.
Lecture in English

18. - 21.8.2011:

Art Outreach Workshop with Catriona Shaw

11.9.2011: 18.30:

Power. Games. Violence.
Video works by Geissler | Sann, 2000 - 2011.
Moderated Videoscreening

Guided Tours
Sonntags, 21. & 28. August, 4. & 11. September 2011
17.00, Donnerstag 8. September 18.30

Place of event
NGBK, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst
Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin