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The Nordenskiöld Model

I do hope and expect that within a few years money will be like dross (From the unfinished tractatus of August Nordenskiöld, A Plain System of Alchymy, 1779).

“The Nordenskiöld Model departs from a historical figure in whom Swedish colonial history, the development of state financial apparatus and utopian mysticism intersect. Against this backdrop, a set of theatrical stagings confront the contemporary development of mathematical models of speculation and the financial economy’s formation of the market.

“In 1780 the mineralogist August Nordenskiöld was secretly employed by king Gustav III to pursue alchemical research. For several years he lived a double life. Officially he was said to be working as a prospector in the field but in reality he was engaged in attempts to produce gold by alchemical means at the Drottningholm castle. The work itself also had dual agendas. In the eyes of the king, the work was being carried out with the aim of boosting state finances for the war against Russia. However Nordenskiöld himself was a utopian idealist whose ultimate goal was to make gold worthless and thereby abolish the “tyranny of money”. For Nordenskiöld, an economy based on money created a disparity between labour and capital, a disparity comparable to the relationship between reality and illusion. His longing for a new society and his faith in Swedenborgian ideas led him subsequently to Sierra Leone where he was employed by a philanthropic colonial agency to realize his utopian vision.

The story of the first real Swedish utopia is, like the fate of all utopias a tragic-comic story replete with ironic twists and unremitting jousts with windmills. But there is also the persistent hope for a different order of things, ideas that would later prove to have revolutionary potential. (From Ronny Ambjörnsson’s Det okända landet)

“A more quietly unfolding, but nonetheless revolutionary paradigm shift has been the “mathematisation” of financial markets, a process in development since the beginning of the 1970’s. The securities market has become successively automated and the development and spread of so-called algorithm-based trading is creating new relationships between models and empirical reality. The model is not just an analytic tool that documents or maps events or processes, but has an agency of its own. It contributes to the production of its own reality, a reality that evolves and adapts itself according to the structure of the model.

“In The Nordenskiöld Model the audience is invited to open rehearsals. With the help of British playwright Pamela Carter, the artist duo Goldin+Senneby orchestrate a dramatic production in which the model as producer of knowledge and conceptual framing is coupled to imaginary tactics such as speculation, utopia, magic and theatre.”

/ Kim Einarsson (curator and director, Konsthall C)


Scene #1: 300 Years of Speculative Realities


Scene #2: A Story of Micro-Second Trading in Twenty Minutes


Scene #3: Plan for a Speculation

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