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The Wilful Undertaking of Serious Chances

10 Mar 2012 - 21:00
Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens, vtls 004518389/98 - unidentified boxer, by permission of The National Library of Wales

A series of numbers and a couple of dots. Perhaps on a page of graph paper. The numbers in the centre represent years, and the ones in the left margin, quantities. At the bottom are prices. Perhaps, the whole thing represents the demand for coal.

The image was drawn by the hand of British political economist and statistician William Stanley Jevons. It may be significant that Jevons, one of the early pioneers of the graphical representation of economic data, published The Coal Question in 1865, the very same year that John Graham Chambers, a Welshman, drafted the Queensbury rules, a code regulating the sport of boxing. For it was out of the violent conditions created by the increased demand for coal that many Welshmen decided to take their chance in the ring.

From those numbers and dots, we will develop our own stories of seminal and concurrent moments in the history of political economy alongside the last push of industrialization in Britain in the late 19th century. The Wilful Undertaking of Serious Chances will transform anecdotes and historical details into reflections on the role of observation in political economy, the domestication of chance, the development of statistics, and the art of boxing.

These stories will come together as chapters in a live projection/performance. The Wilful Undertaking of Serious Chances builds on ideas and research we have been developing since 2008, which aim to actively re-theorize economic action and reclaim economy as a site of human invention and intervention.