1948 Unbound: Unleashing the Technical Present – Tokens


Sat, Dec 2, 2017, 3pm at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

In the frame of Technosphere (2015-19) at Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Concept by Katrin Klingan, Christoph Rosol, Nicholas Houde, and Janek Müller in collaboration with Victoria Ivanova, Alexander Klose, Gerald Nestler, Sascha Pohflepp, Patricia Reed, and Benjamin Steininger.

Trailer for full event, in collaboration with Harry Sanderson.

Presentations, talks, performance
Simultaneous translation of the entire program EN<->DE

Full Program available on the HKW website.
With the establishment of universal standards for industrial goods, credit systems, and human rights around 1948, the world is transformed into a technocratic space of transactions. Orchestrated by the material and virtual circulation of Tokens—universal currencies, data, and bodies—economic infrastructures and legal mechanisms emerge and begin to regulate a global society. Within a visual-discursive scenery, theoretical and artistic contributions contour the technical standards of an infinitely circulating present.

With Anil Bawa-Cavia (computer scientist), Benjamin Bratton (media and design theorist), Anna Echterhölter (cultural theorist), Oscar Guardiola-Rivera (professor of law), Gerald Nestler (artist, writer), Vera Tollmann (cultural scientist) & Boaz M Levin (artist)

Program in collaboration with Victoria Ivanova (curator, cultural theorist) & Patricia Reed (artist, writer)

© Anil Bawa-Cavia/STD-IO

Image courtesy of © Anil Bawa-Cavia/STD-IO

3 pm
Anna Echterhölter and Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
Genealogies of Standardization

What kind of universal, token-based systems were envisioned around 1948 to recondition the war-torn world? With the post-WWII period came a series of economic problems generated by wartime debts, fragmented international relations and food shortages. Anna Echterhölter delves into projects such as Keynes’s ill-fated bancor currency and the United Nations’ Relief and Rehabilitation Association (UNRRA) in their attempts to alleviate these problems through token-based approaches that sought universalism and commensurability. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN also sought a form of standardized legal structure that would tokenize the human subject. Oscar Guardiola-Rivera explores the implications of such a framework particularly as it has entrenched our contemporary condition in asymmetrical articulations of sovereignty, the imposition of Western ideas, and structural violence throughout the globe.

3.45 pm
Benjamin Bratton, Vera Tollmann & Boaz Levin, and Anna Echterhölter
Processing Sovereignty

As economic and governance regimes scale to encompass our contemporary globalized condition, new technologies for integrating communication, addressability, and interfacial infrastructures become tantamount to a new form of sovereignty. Benjamin Bratton, addresses these emergent platform structures and their evolution through his conception of the Stack. Exploring this strange intersection of technology, economy, and governance in localized terms, Anna Echterhölter investigates the implications of voucher programs for food rationing in refugee camps run by intergovernmental institutions such as the World Food Program (WFP), and the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). Boaz Levin and Vera Tollman then move through the occulted, at-a-distance geographic presences of global finance by mapping the complex legal, political, and geospatial tools employed by global financial firms, using the City of London Corporation as a case study.

4.30 pm
Benjamin Bratton, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, and Gerald Nestler
Logics of Derivation 

Risk is now calculated with increasing intensity and fed back into economic pricing models, governance strategies, and personal scores based on credit and lifestyle as abstract tokens both tradable and valuable. Benjamin Bratton tracks the multifarious dynamics that these logics and abstractions can generate. As derivatives incorporate their contingencies, they do so by excluding and relegating certain bodies, goods, and places as collateral damage. Oscar Guardiola-Rivera explores the consequences of incorporation and exclusion through international governance regimes increasingly determined by factored risk and contingency. Meanwhile, Blockchain technologies have set a new horizon for economic and political structures, challenging models of centralized governance and finance by employing “smart” contracts and exchangeable non-state tokens. What are the consequences of this innovative model for derivation? Gerald Nestler analyzes the tokenized material generated throughout the section on screen, and discusses the relationship these derivatives mediate between material reality and abstract valuation.

5.30 pm
Post-Westphalian Interfaces
Final discussion moderated by Victoria Ivanova & Patricia Reed
A cumulative discussion amongst all contributors pointing to the future possibilities (and threats) unleashed by procedures related to tokenization and the inherent increase of abstraction these entail, particularly in relation to geopolitical re-design.