Under the title Drunks Cheyney Thompson (* 1975, lives in New York) presents in his fifth solo exhibition at Campoli Presti a group of new paintings.
The science of economics developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries predominantly in the
medium of language. The impact of set theoretical and topological reasoning after World War II finally put
this verbal tradition to an end. Paralleled by the mathematization of economics from the 1950’s onwards,
finance slowly moved from the margins of curricula at business schools to the center of value production. Its
rise during the 1990’s marks the technical actualization – mathematical models drawn with pencil on paper
were put to the test with the help of computers – of an epistemic shift, which has been in prolonged
hibernation. As early as in 1900, Louis Bachelier discusses in his doctoral thesis “The Theory of Speculation”
the application of stochastic processes to evaluate stock options. It has since marked the most general
strand, that has not only transformed the study of finance, but the functioning of markets themselves.
Bachelier's main thesis is that the prices of stocks and similar securities follow a random walk and therefore
the mathematical theory of probability can be applied, which was complemented in the 1960’s by an
argument that explicated this. Prices follow a random path, since any information available prescribes their
development. This is taken into account by speculators and thus cancelled out. Markets are efficient and
only therefore subject to the arithmetics of chance.
A variant of such a random walk algorithm is put to work in this exhibition by Cheyney Thompson in order to
produce paintings. With regards to the paintings on view, its meander is placed into a threedimensional
colour-system conceptualized by Albert Munsell at the turn of the last century, which has been
deployed by Thompson during the past years in order to tie his practice to the possibility of a rigorous
quantification of colour. The algorithm is programmed to cover a distance of 8032 steps. The
diverse positions the line drawn by it within the solid of Munsell’s´colour model can be
translated into amounts of different hues, saturations and values – square centimetres– Thompson
finally applies on canvas. The algorithm – as a model which produces nothing but colour quantities and as
information the beholder knows about – withdraws the surfaces of the tableaux from the possibility to read
their compositions as indices of intention. The articulated brush traces, which
ought to do nothing but spend the material, apparently struggle to escape the habitus of the painter. They
are fraudulent in the sense that they cannot become an object of judgement. This is precisely so because
one cannot even confirm by merely looking at them the application of their rule.
What they produce is a perspective from which the painter as well as the viewer are excluded. They are
opaque, not where their redundant materiality becomes visible, but by means of their reduction to an
abstract informatization, which mirrors the intangibility of economic processes that they nonetheless break
down within the finite form of painting: a test pad for the non-liveable.
Cheyney Thompson’s work is part of the permanent collections of MoMA, New York and Centre Pompidou,
Paris. He recently had a solo survey exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts with an
accompanying monograph and was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Past exhibitions include The
Complete Reference: Pedestals and Drunken Walks (solo) at Kunstverein Braunschweig, Chat Jet - Painting
‘Beyond’ The Medium at Künstlerhaus Graz; The Indiscipline of Painting at Tate St Ives; Systems Analysis at
West London Projects and Langen Foundation, Germany; Greater New York at P.S.1 Contemporary Art
Center and Clandestine at The Venice Biennial 2003.