MICHELLE KAUFMAN ART

Wealth Distribution, 2012
single channel video
TRT 7:49
color, sound
made for:
The Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University show:
Poor Quality: Inequaity

Allocation Cemented, 2012
single channel video
TRT 6:41
color, sound
made for:
The Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University show:
Poor Quality: Inequality

 

According to Credit Suisse's 2011 Global Wealth Report, the global breakdown of wealth is:

World Population

Wealth

9%

82%

24%

15%

67%

3%

I created an 8 foot wooden cube with a grid at the top that had 100 ribbons hanging from it with ‘coins’ and magnets on the ends.

The idea was to have people walk through the coins with magnetized jackets in order to watch them react as a winner take all situation developed (due to the way I allocated the magnets inside their jackets). However, my structure had ideas of its own. The magnets were very sensitive to any sort of movement. Therefore, I made two videos:

1. Wealth Distribution: Four people enter the cube. They speak of who has wealth and who does not and how it should be allocated.

2. Allocation Cemented: The cube (with the help of the wind) allocated the wealth on its own, mirroring the current global distribution. Initially, all the ribbons are hanging straight down: to each his own. Then, as the wind blows, the coins agglomerate, and the ribbons to which they are attached become intertwined and tangled. Once a few large clumps form, the distribution of the coins and ribbons is cemented.

Dan Ariely: The economist Thomas Schelling showed in 1972 that even small differences in initial conditions can yield dramatically different outcomes over time. In one of his examples, he demonstrated that a neighborhood comprised of people who have a slight preference for others of the same skin color can gain momentum over time such that the neighborhood winds up completely segregated. Similarly, in a world in which money begets more money, it is easy to see how a slightly better starting point could yield substantially different outcomes down the line.