In this immersive installation, Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh makes a connection between the volatility of financial markets and the movement of people seeking better lives. A traditional Greek lamentation song is complemented with real-time stock market indexes moving across an LED display. The Way Earthly Things Are Going was commissioned by the art exhibition documenta 14. It was installed in a raw concrete auditorium within the Athens Conservatoire, an iconic building but one which has become a symbol of failed utopian modernism.
Taking its title from a lyric in the Bob Marley song ‘So Much Trouble in the World’, this work references the current financial crisis – particularly significant to Greece, but also of global relevance – and the migration of people fleeing war and economic hardship. The ticker tape displays financial data, transmitted live from dozens of stock exchange indexes around the world. This is slowed down to match the pace of the singing, recorded specifically for this work with a traditional polyphonic choir. The lamentation song ‘When I forget, I’m glad’, from the Epirus region of northern Greece, recounts a story of forced migration and relates to the present economic situation in Greece.
The feeling of wandering the perimeter of this piece was mesmerising. Each speaker seems to contain and project a different voice of the choir, the sounds melding and changing as you move around the vast echoing space. The human voices contrast with the cold hard facts of the stock prices on display. Both the singing and the prices are in a language (for me) that I find hard to understand, although the sentiment of both seems abundantly clear. The installation uses the large concrete space perfectly and I could happily have wandered from voice to voice under the slowly-flickering ‘scoreboard’ for much longer than I had time for. An inspiring yet simple use of sound and (moving) image.