Income Inequality Visualized By One Gold Brick and 99 Balloons

It’s My Party And I Do What I Want To! uses balloons, a gold brick and a small army of thumbtacks to visually demonstrate the widening income gap.

In the corner of the gallery Luis Adelantado in Valencia, Spain one gold brick floats eerily in mid-air, suspended by 99 silver balloons shaped like the number one. The slyly named It’s My Party And I Do What I Want To!—we would have also accepted 99% Luftballoons—is artist Iván Sikic’s simple yet powerful interpretation of the “We are the 99%” slogan popularized by Occupy Wall Street and the idea that the vast majority of the world’s citizens are paying for the lifestyles of the wealthy few.

Sikic was inspired to create the piece after reading a study released by Oxfam that estimates that over half of the world’s wealth will be in the hands of 1% of the population by 2016. “For me even just thinking about that was so hard to understand and comprehend,” says Sikic. So he illustrated it using the first materials that came to mind: balloons to represent the masses and one gold brick to symbolize the concentration of wealth among the top earning 1%. “It’s the idea of how the collective have to lift this unit. The gold lasts forever and ever but the balloons will fade and start collapsing one by one.”

Over the two months that the work is on exhibition, the gallery will add a new balloon each week to supplement the deflating balloons. Below the brick lies an army of 7,000 thumbtacks (Sikic says the number is random) that provides a menacing presence for the balloons, but one of little consequence to the heavy gold brick.

Using gold as a medium to highlight social issues and injustice is an Iván Sikic signature. Last April, as a part of his work LOOT, Sikic hid a golden nugget valued over $2,000 in an abandoned mansion in his home town of Lima, and visitors tore apart the house trying to find it. The work was meant to demonstrate the lure of illegal mining and the effect it has on both Peruvian communities and the environment.

In It’s My Party, he created the effect of a solid gold brick by taking a normal brick and wrapping it in gold leaf. “[Gold] is so powerful. There’s a perceived value, we think we have an idea of its weight,” says Sikic. “The brick was 5 cents but the gold leaves are 100% gold, and that’s what elevates this 1%.”

As economic angst like the Greek debt crisis continues to play out on the international stage, Sikic’s piece asks viewers to think about the economic repercussions of income inequality and the lack of representation of the vast majority in political and economic decisions. In two months time, even Sikic is not sure how his work will look–if the balloons will still be holding up or whether the whole piece will have collapsed onto the floor.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.