Playing Dice With The Universe

Tauba Auerbach: Extended Object (detail), 2018, acrylic on canvas with wooden stretcher and aluminum frame, 14 by 18 inches overall. PRIVATE COLLECTION/COURTESY PAULA COOPER GALLERY

In the fall of 2020, Deutsche Bank’s “Long-Term Asset Return Study” announced the Age of Disorder: an era of clashing superpowers, worsening inequality, faltering economies, quarreling generations, deteriorating ecosystems, and suffering populations. Instead of identifying a path from crisis to opportunity, the investment bank simply advised readers to avoid “extrapolating past trends.” Reading summaries of the report in the press, I was disoriented by the mix of dutiful doom saying and eagerness to drop a buzzy, epoch-defining slogan, as if disorder were just another trend to be tagged and tracked. As I delved into the report’s accounts of debt, inflation, and the “new Cold War,” I wondered where people without high-performing assets might turn, beyond schemes to dispossess unrepentant boomers. To the heavens, perhaps? A writer I know had been chronicling the anxiety-fueled surge in astrology, and she pointed me to highly rational, distressed acquaintances who’d become preoccupied with star signs and tarot. I took note of teachers, economists, lawyers, and journalists who were adopting a symbolic system that ties human agency to the transit of celestial bodies, and artists who were creating horoscope-themed performances and paintings.

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