MILAN, JULY 16th — A hand holds a sphere. The sphere reflects the image of an old man sitting on an armchair, in an office. I do not move closer, because I want to keep this perspective and concentrate on the details. Eyes inside the eye that shows reality. One reality. I step back: the image does not change. I see the same man with the same background, and the same perspective.
I take a few more steps and enter the stucco-framed room with golden decorations, far from the lithograph titled Hand With Reflecting Sphere. Since I am in Italy, I decided to spend a few hours at the Maurits Cornelis Escher’s temporary exhibition in Palazzo Reale, Milan.
While I move towards the next work, I stop in front of a mirror. I see the reflected image of a fifty-year old man. White shirt and a black suit. It’s Derek Morgan’s image. This is how people see me. A simple and elegant man, one of the most important Wall Street bankers, who takes part to the meetings of the Board of Directors of the Big Bank in Murray Street, Manhattan, New York City.
However, this image only reflects one side of me. There is another hidden side and only a few people know about it. Everyone has got something to hide but my reasons are far more serious because – let’s say – I am part of the club of men who control the destiny of the Planet. I cannot say that we meet in a skyscraper of Midtown Manhattan with a view on the world. Power lives there, they call it the Thirteenth Floor and I am not allowed to talk about it.
In my office at the Big Bank, guests are welcomed by a copy of Escher’s Mill (Waterfall). They know that, due an optical illusion, the water seems to flow upward. But they do not know that people like me also have the power to create visual illusions, to manipulate reality, and to confuse the minds of millions of men and women. People like me can perform miracles.
We have used public resources to save banks, we have found a way in the storm of the crisis, we have stopped apocalypses and silenced prophets of equality. We work to maintain order – the only possible order – to maintain balance, to defend incomes and to ensure the stability of the system.
They call us “The Devils”. I stop in front of another work, in line with the centre of the previous one. I need to concentrate in order to avoid immediate disillusionment. This is the first time I see the original work, I know the trick behind it but I still want to abandon myself: as long as I can.
First of all, I observe the apparently-perfect symmetry. The picture created by the opposing stairs and shapes, supports and cavities. Two halves that seem to meet on the same level.
But they don’t. In order to break the spell, I decide to start from the two men attacking from the lithograph margins: they are portrayed from different perspectives, the one on the left from above, the one on the right from below. It is the main characteristic of this work. Overcoming the illusion is a liberating and depressing experience at the same time. An interplay of concavity and convexity, where the superficial observer feels defeated, and the attentive one wins.
I let out a sigh. For a long time, visual illusion has been my specialty. I used to turn concavity into convexity. Make the euro weaker in order to hide the weakness of the dollar. And use currency to reform political systems. But things have changed.
The spell casted on the Western world after the fall of the Berlin Wall is fading away. The trick has been revealed. Political programs are breaking down. There was a deterioration of the political offer, which used to be adjusted to the requirements of the global capital and to the multiple changes of its ecosystem. This mechanism, which has been working for two decades, is now broken. For the first time, I notice that the stairs of the bridge – on the left – turn into an arch springer on the right.
Our system is a complex organism designed to maintain balance. It has to support alternating periods of expansion and recession, and the political system has to support it in turn. In the darkness of the theatre, behind the scenes, or directly on the stage, in the spotlight, we have provided financial support to the leaders who were following our plans. We have fed the public opinion with false political changes. We do not only represent the financial world: we are the secret warp of a reality where everything is intertwined and connected.
In front of me a column supports the roof on the left and the vault on the right. Finance is an invisible connection between public debt, technology-based start-ups, and the food and arms industries. We are the frame and the picture, the reality and the illusion. We are the convergence of opposed points of view. Therefore, the stairs you see from above turn into shelf supports when you observe them from the opposite perspective and you can see a lizard climbing on them. However, the animal sits motionless in this deceptive game: it does not move, neither upward nor downward, and similarly we suspended any possibility of social movement and polished the sides of the pyramid from where we look down on you.
After the financialization of the real economy, we became essential. We acted as legislators and constituents but we haven’t been elected. The wave of the crisis of 2007 looked like a tsunami, but we were perfectly able to manage it. Our hands were untied by the fear.
But the big game is almost over now. Some tested mechanisms seem to be out of phase. Nowadays finance is a scapegoat. They think we are responsible for every disaster, our endorsement is a kiss to death, and our horses are lame. We can originate a rain of dollars but we cannot afford to buy public approval anymore. We must admit it. And, after accepting defeat, we need to change. Once again. It’s time to start. We need to change strategy and manage such a change.
I walk down the corridor, calmly, towards the room where Another World 2 is exhibited. There is a young couple in front of the work piece.
I wait for them to go away. Without peeking because I do not want to spoil the surprise and without wandering away to see the other works in the room. After a few seconds I finally find myself alone in front of the woodcut. In front of its three-point perspective: frontal, from below and from above.
“Another world is possible” some people used to say at the beginning of the millennium. They were criticizing our order. At some point the ripple effect seemed to be almost over….
On the contrary, it is changing its shape. And it may wipe out the impossible architectures we have built to control the planet. It may cancel the mirages created by our unconventional optical illusions, which are able to turn natural laws upside down. Similar to the bird statue/horn overturning created by Escher here. The wave is long and ripe, and it contains all the contradictions of the Western world. It is coming with its superior power and it will be harder to surf. It is full of rage and rubble, it is the reaction of the people unbound from our illusions.
Referendum and elections are ungovernable events. The vote is a variable that cannot be confined to algorithmic logics. The role of fear is less effective, and disillusion is bringing us towards more radical evolutions. The intrusive world of Big Data may determine trends in consumption and consumer behaviour but it is not able to govern emotions. The vote is a pre-rational phenomenon for some segments of the population, and we are not able to understand it.
The microchip of the illusion created by consumerism has stopped working, somnambulism is suspended, Euclidean geometry is coming back, along with the universal laws of physics, gravity may cause our fall and entropy may consume us. As if linearity could cancel the perception overturning created by Escher in this parallelepiped.
I am watching the works of the great architect who turned the world of Euclid and Newton upside down, while the British population has voted for Brexit. The vote of excluded people, a vote against the system. Against us.
Yes, we were wrong. The endorsement for Remain of our men in the City was a real suicide. Now we need to stay in the shadow because the situation has changed. Currency volatility has a limited impact and government bonds have been sterilized. Banks are our weapons, the weakest link of the system. Each vote against the system leads to a collapse in the banking system: Spanish people were aware of it and they voted prudently. The Geek lesson was useful.
Europe is founded on the fragility of its banking system. We have seen biopolitics applied to public debt management, and the use of pure biofinance to manage the banking system…
I look at the woodcut Another World once again, its suspended structure is floating in the universe, and the different backgrounds of Jupiter, Saturn and the lunar surface appear from a different perspective.
This is a global view. This is exactly what we should do. We should look at the United States of America in this way: we need to consider all possibilities without imposing our vision.
We presumed to be carriers of light, like Lucifer. We were wrong. We chose Hillary Clinton in view of continuity. We were wrong. We may lose control over other variables, as they did in the UK. We must stop betting on a single horse. We need to tame all the horses in order not to lose. Some people used to say: We shall be all. We must go back to the shadow and be everything.