Sunday, 8 December 2013

In George Square

People of the Christmas Time : Makeshift Studios

Dateline : December 7, 1.00pm, Glasgow.

While walking across Glasgow's George Square, I came to thinking about how people's lives cut across the global financial system, or - more correctly - the how the global financial system cuts across all our lives.

As I walked toward Queen Street train station, people around me, all of them with their own purpose in mind, seemed to be focused on their own personal microworlds.

"What shall I give Auntie Cora for Chrstmas. I know, hoiw about fingerless mittens. But didn't I get her fingerless mittens last year?"

I wondered what was driving them. Could it be work, travel, Christmas shopping, lunch, drugs? All of which, had one thing in common, money or 'a cost'.

They will have worked out in their own minds how much cash they will need for what they intended to do.

If they were working they might be headed for a meeting somewhere in the city and be heading there on foot, which means their cost will be nil. They might, of course, pick up a newspaper and, perhaps, a snack or coffee on the way over so they might, indeed invest a couple of pounds in the local economy as they shift ground. The guy observed was also linked by discrete earphones to music so, technically, there had been some previous costs related to his existence - perhaps a Christmas present from last year.

Of course, they might have been heading to the rail station to catch a train so they will have either previously purchased a ticket, or intend to pick one up at the station. Depending on where they were headed there might be a significant cost involved, especially if they are travelling some distance, to Aberdeen, Inverness or even beyond.

Christmas shopping, I think we can all agree, is a financailly pressurised period, that has us all cash paranoid and on the point of breakdown. It is a period of the year that turns normally sensible people into jibbering wrecks, normally sedate individuals into rudely, gesturing, eyeball-straining psychos - you get the picture?

Lunch is not free and neither are drugs to purchase on the street.

My point is that all this is happening all around us as we move through the crowds of people walking the streets of our cities.

Here, in George Square, were people from all walks of life going about their everyday business and I wondered what was on their minds.

I could have, as photographer Gillian Wearing once did in a famous series of images, whipped out my camera, stopped people in the street, handed out large placards and asked them to write on the board what was on their minds at that precise point in time.

In this 'confessional' series (Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say ) Wearing's subjects duly obliged. A police officer wrote one word 'Help' on his placard, while a homeless man scribbled 'I signed on and they would not give me nothing'. A middle -class man wrote 'I'm desperate', while a shabbily dressed young man wrote 'Everything is connected in life'.

Which brings me neatly back to our entanglement in this far expanding global financial universe which is all inter-connected to us, individually and collectively.

It fascinates me that a company called Alladin, for example, tends to a Milky Way of 6000 hot computers which, in turn and together, holds the assets for nearly 200 pension funds, banks,insurance companies, asset - management companies and so on. Trillions of dollars of capital.

"Hey what's this plug for...?"
"Aaaaah, Moorcroft don't touch that...!"
"Sorry Angelo, Looks like it's came loose and...fell out of the wall socket... and what's happened to that lovely humming sound of those 6000 computers."

Late into the night Moorcroft and Angelo are sat at a desk with piles of scraps of paper littered around them.

"The United Farmers and Allied Trades of America pension fund" Angelo muses, lifting a scrap of paper and taking a note. "Mmmm let's say that's their five dollars. I'll write that down...five dollars..."
"Okay, but that means the Ancient French and Neopolitan Insurance Company, otherwise known as AFNIC, are down by seven bucks?"
"Let me think here..."

Every possibility that my insurance company or pension fund is being looked after by this internet platform... and every possibility that every one of those people milling around me in George Square will in some way to be connected to that giant cyberspace hive up in Washington State.

Now let me tell you about the Acxiom corporation....
(Written in Glasgow, and Edinburgh. December 7 to December 8)

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