The Straightest Path Allowed by Law is a new photographic work, forming a topographic exploration into the relationship between high-frequency trading routes and the phenomenon of the American landscape.
In 2010, the Allegheny mountain region of Pennsylvania was drilled through to make way for a private fibre-optic cable line linking the major trading capitals of America – New York and Chicago. Largely conducted in secret, the $300 million project was constructed to speed up high-frequency trading times by a matter of milliseconds.
Much of the route follows small paved roads, bridges and railroads due to laws against laying fibre on interstate highways, the challenge became constructing “the straightest path allowed by law”*. The Allegheny Mountains are often noted, if somewhat vaguely, in articles and academic writing on the subjects of high-frequency trading as being the toughest challenge for the private firm Spread Networks who commissioned the project, because of the hard limestone known as ‘blue rock’.
In October 2014 I undertook a trip to the region, intrigued by what I would find there. Dotted in between pastoral landscapes of cornfields, local Amish communities, vast forests, national parks and small mountain towns are the occasional signifier of this vast project– a small white and orange poll.
However, the line itself, being an inch and a half wide, does not hold particular significance in terms of its monumental impact on the environment. Rather, I am drawn to what this landscape represents as a topographic survey of economics, the incongruous relationship between the local and the global and the invisible presence of financial markets in a seemingly vernacular landscape.
*Michael Lewis, Flash Boys
Mixed media installation:
carousel slide projection
audio text (25.52 min)