The Urge of the Object and the Emphatic Forensics of Insurance Companies

The Transport Information Service (TIS) – a branch of the German Insurance Association (GDV e.V.) – delivers monthly articles on the vivid life of unsecured cargo materials. Here objects that travel the world as food, concrete pillars or steel beams are always thought of as accidents waiting to happen – of having a potential to make their place in the world of eventual highway accidents, container jams or german beer lakes.

Every time an object leaves its regulated position as a cargo on journey, a chain of physical performances is set in motion, which is carefully (and with excitement) studied by insurance companies and ultimately by their makers of risk assessment models. In this field a whole branch of specialists works eagerly on forecasting the next impending doom and creates massive catalogs, datasets, and visual modeling forms that record and analyze every wrong (or right) step of a thing. As Florian Goldmann (Stratagrids disaster and risk modeling researcher) pointed out recently; the business of risk management is creating whole shit-might-hit-the-fan libraries.

Every new concrete block which is playing out its gravitational longings, is listed in some insurance file and works as a guinea pig for the next stone to fall.

And they will surely fall! The business is vivid as long as the material is vivid.

In its monthly column titled „Photo of the Month“, the German Insurance Association is highlighting recent accidents with much empathy for the object. Here, the object is always been forgiven the damage it has done, because the columnist seems to know that an object just can’t help going back to its very place of origin; Earth.

One article titled, Dinner is served: „Zucchini surprise…“ explains the urge of the zucchini:

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

Of course, the zucchini didn’t realize what was going on because of the dark green curtains around them. So they just carried straight on and all piled up against the left-hand tarpaulin. And, true to the motto „together we are strong,“ they were stronger than the tarpaulin. The tarpaulin pulled free of the rail at the top and opened up the way to freedom. The zucchini grasped the opportunity and escaped together with their boxes. Most of them ended up on the left-turn lane (where they thought they would hinder the traffic least).

courtesy of Transport Information Service (TIS)

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

So its not simply a gravitational issue, gravity doesn’t even exist here, its a matter of being drawn to where you feel most comfortable. And somehow it makes sense when you look at those picture of nicely spread out lost cargo. They really do appear more natural – even satisfied – lying in an open field or crushed inside a wall of a building. Nicely unwrapped they can fully embrace their freedom. No more do they have to sit tight as packed up outplaced cargo.

The way in which a zucchinis mood swing is described by the insurance company is very analogue to the theories of the mineralogist Albertus Magnus, an alchemist from the middle ages, whos studies of the metaphysics of minerals was once cutting edge theory, though nowadays only appreciated as pseudoscience.

Albert’s explanation for the desire of things goes as follows:

Heavy things drop not because of gravitational pull but because the prepondering element of earth in them “desires” to return to base, and thus makes objects move in downward direction. (…) Let drop a stone from the hand and it moves downward to meet its earthy friends. Objects move “naturally” according to their elemental disposition, and if not, then their motion is “violent.” A stone being lifted or thrown upward was the classic example of violent motion. In this pre-Newtonian cosmos, levity—far from being mere lack of gravity—is a centrifugal urge, a natural tendency to flee earth’s center and move to the terrestrial circumference as the place where it is happiest, most itself. *

  • We are used to the (somewhat natural) flows of moving material as goods and it is received as a rather violent act, when lost cargo causes damage to other objects or even humans.

  • Though within the logic of the insurer the object get’s a special treatment and the whole game switches.

  • Violent (or forced) and natural movements change positions.

  • The object is violently moved when turned into cargo and it might, if it has the chance, naturally move back towards earth.

Indeed ! – a cargo ship is a stone that has been thrown up very, very high. No one knows what it might hit on its way down.

The primary focus of the forensic insurance eye is always the object. It always relies on the truth of the object, which would never lie about its needs. It’s answer will always satisfy the investigating insurance company: „It was me, but you know, I had to, and they knew very well that I had to so its obviously their fault.“ And thus, the object always gets away.

It seems as if this time (though not for good) the insurance companies and the objects of disaster have set a secret contract and joined there human and non-human forces in conspiracy.

(Though ultimately the insurer works on behalf of the object, as he first has to confess the objects vibrancy before he can make money of its power.)


Below some rather successful and successful attempts of various lively matter:

Courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

Courtesy of Transport Information Service (TIS)

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

Courtesy of Transport Information Service (TIS)

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

Courtesy of Transport Information Service (TIS)

courtesy of the Transport Information Service (TIS)

The lively side of inorganic and organic matter can be closely studied at the Photo of the Month section of the TIS website.

* Taken from Valerie Allen’s article „Mineral Virtue“ in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics And Objects