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Leaping into the void: Yves-Klein – the man who invented a colour

Fellow Traders,

Another Friday / weekend read. Every so often on this blog I have to ask you, the intrepid reader, to indulge me as I appear to wander ‘off the ranch’ that is trading and the markets and into uncharted territory. This is another request to indulge me.

I was at the Tate Liverpool last week to catch the end of the Yves-Klein exhibition. (Yes I know you’re surprised, what can I say? I’m classier than I look.)

Now before you think I’m going all ‘la-di-dah’ in my old age this post is trading related I assure you. So please bear with me.

“For the benefit of the uneducated amongst us I shall translate.” (a great line from one of my fave movies – see I’m lowering the tone already.) Yves Klein (1928-1962) was a French artist considered an important figure in post-war European art.

In 1957 he held an exhibition in Milan where he showed 11 identical blue canvas all covered in a special ultramarine colour which became known as International Klein Blue. Quite an achievement to have a colour named after yourself.

And there is my photo from the exhibition in Liverpool. Which I can assure you does not do the artwork justice. Now many of the readers of this blog may now be asking why I would be spending my weekend in an Art Gallery looking at what looks like a plain blue canvas?

But here’s the thing – when I stepped back and looked at the image, I had a very different experience from those people around me. I saw the deep dark blue acting like a gateway drawing me into a different time and space. (I assure you that I was not on LSD – the most hard-core thing I’d had that day was a bacon sandwich!)

My experience was different from everyone else. I saw different things than anyone else. And I explained to my partner how it was remarkably like trading. I have often talked about how the screens are like a mirror – they reflect back everything about our own psychology. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Furthermore everyone can look at the same chart on the screen and have a different experience – and draw a wildly different conclusion. (If you’ve ever been to a Elliot Wave meeting you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.)

So we as traders/humans can all have a different experience from the same visual stimulus. This also feeds into a cognitive bias that is known as Apophenia – the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data.

In particular apophenia pareidolia is where we perceive images or sounds from random stimuli. Kind of like when everyone can see ‘the man in the moon’ or we look at a car grill and perceive that the car is smiling at us. Or we look at a chart and perceive that there’s a trading signal……when really there isn’t! Lets face it – we’ve all fallen for that at some point in our trading careers.

Anyway back to Yves Klein, his IKB collection brought him fame and glamour. As you can see from the photos, models lined up to help him create new art works using his IKB colour.

(Note to the young boys reading this: get your mind out of the gutter – those photos are art – not porn!)

As part of his collection they also had a famous photo of his that I wanted to see – “Leap into the void”.

‘Leap into the void’ (1960) apparently shows him jumping off a wall, arms outstretched, towards the pavement.

Can anyone see the parallels with trading? We as traders have to leap into the void every day we sit at our trading desk. The hunt for certainty ends the moment you switch on your trading computer – no two days are the same and we have no idea how we’ll fare and whether our account will have grown or shrunk by the end of the session (though we all engage in optimism bias to hope it’ll be the former rather than the latter.) We literally take a leap into the void.

However Klein’s work revolved around a Zen-influenced concept he came to describe as “le Vide” (the Void). Klein’s Void is a nirvana-like state that is void of worldly influences; a neutral zone where one is inspired to pay attention to one’s own sensibilities, and to “reality” as opposed to “representation”. (Wikipedia)

It might be said that we, as traders, would do better if we entered a neutral zone where we focused on our sensibilities rather than other market influences. Furthermore we always need to strive for reality rather than representation in market moves and our own trading.

Sadly Klein died of a heart attack at the tender age of 34. However his work lives on. I don’t consider myself an art connoisseur in any way whatsoever – however I had to say that I enjoyed the collection and it did make me think about life, art…….and trading.

So there you have it – some art, education and trading all in one post – don’t say that I don’t try to keep the posts original and make you think.

Or maybe I just need to get out more and stop seeing trading related messages in everything I see and do!!

Trade well


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