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Explaining Income Inequality with Balloons, Gold, and Thumbtacks

Activist artist Iván Sikic takes on the rich with 99 silver balloons and 7,000 wicked sharp thumbtacks.

Seven years after the financial crisis, and four years after Occupy Wall Street set up camp in Zuccotti Park, income inequality is still a huge problem, not just in the United States, but around the world. Peruvian artist and citizen of the world Iván Sikic, who spent 10 years in Australia, recently relocated to Brooklyn, and just launched a new installation in Valencia, Spain, explains the income gap the only way he knows how: a poetic metaphor involving 99 balloons, a gilded brick, and 7,000 thumbtacks.

We saw Sikic recreate the devastating gold rush tearing the Amazon apart in his May installation, LOOT, which saw participants wreck an abandoned mansion in search of a small, $2,000 gold nugget. For It’s My Party and I Do What I Want To!, his new work in Valencia, a gilded brick represents the unattainable status of the 1%, rather than a carrot for the impovershed looking to escape their fate. Meanwhile, the balloons suspending it above the floor of the Luis Adelantando Gallery represent the huddeled masses keeping the rich, quite literally, afloat.

"The idea and the conversation around the 1% and the 99% has been in the mainstream for a decent amount of time now," Sikic tells The Creators Project. After reading reports that the top 1% could own 50% of the world's wealth by 2016, he felt compelled to act. "I tried to focus on presenting a work that would help visualize this disparity by using elements that could make it a bit more graspable. I also really wanted to highlight the ridiculousness of this reality, which is why I chose to use objects and elements that symbolized humor, joy, greed and power, all tied by something that cannot be seen; in this case, helium."

Like Brian Foo's Two Trains, which translated New York City's income inequality as rising and falling notes on the 2 subway line, the power in Sikic's installation lies in the way it makes the disparity both relatable and visceral. As balloons deflate throughout It’s My Party and I Do What I Want To!'s three-month stay, more will be added to keep the golden brick afloat—Sikic's stark reminder that, "regardless of how hard or fast the 1% falls, in general, they will most likely still be immune to any threats."

See exclusive images of It’s My Party and I Do What I Want To! below.

It's My Party and I Do What I Want To! is ongoing at Luis Adelantando Gallery in Valencia, Spain through the end of September. Check out more of Ivan Sikic's work on his website.

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