Demystification Committee


October 19, 1987. Against the volatile backdrop of US bombing in the Persian Gulf and a Great Storm forcing European financial markets to close, the Dow Jones suffers its heaviest percentage loss ever. As thousands of buy and sell orders inexplicably flood the New York Stock Exchange, an hypothesis strengthens: computers are crashing the market, “demons of our own design”.

Demons is a reenactment of the stock market crash of October 19, 1987. In Demons, New York Stock Exchange trading data from the day is translated into sound by means of custom software.

Responding to a set of strange and seemingly unconnected events unfolding at the time of market opening, the computers of NYSE institutional investors executed a choreography of trades in an effort to protect the values of their portfolios against volatile market conditions. A domino effect was triggered as computers followed a herd trading logic, dictated by the technical analysis of each others’ trading patterns.

The market, as a complex network of information, was flooded by the orders of newly-introduced algorithmic trading techniques. The accident of October 19, 1987 marks the first instance of a financial market being crashed under unprecedented inhuman pressure. A pressure of machinic agency, felt for the first time then and which has yet to subside.