Art as Social Commentary: Blake Fall-Conroy

Artist Blake Fall-Conroy makes a strong case for raising minimum wage with a simple yet extraordinary sculpture.

Throughout history art has been used by individuals, groups, and governments as a way to raise public awareness of social issues. Visual images have the power to persuade masses of people to follow leaders, accept new or controversial ideas, and take action. Blake Fall-Conroy is one such artist, using his creations to make a broad social statement.

On his webpage Mr. Fall-Conroy states,

I want my projects to be socially conscious.

I want my projects to be simple, approachable, and defined by the vocabulary of everyday objects.

I want my projects to be easy to understand, even if it’s in a different way than I intended.

I want the form of my projects to follow the underlying concept, nothing more.

I am more interested in communicating ideas and less interested in making art.

One of his more famous pieces is the Minimum Wage Machine (Work in Progress). Fall-Conroy explains,

The minimum wage machine allows anybody to work for minimum wage. Turning the crank will yield one penny every 4.97 seconds, for $7.25 an hour (NY state minimum wage). If the participant stops turning the crank, they stop receiving money. The machine’s mechanism and electronics are powered by the hand crank, and pennies are stored in a plexiglas box.

Not only are the basic mechanics of this sculpture extraordinary, the social commentary that accompanies it is eye opening to say the least. There is no question that the majority of people who start out turning the crank with enthusiasm would become discouraged when they quickly realize how little they are really acquiring with each rotation. This realization in turn serves to help raise awareness that this is exactly what a significant number of Americans do every day just to survive, and at jobs markedly harder than simply turning a crank.


Picture: puuikibeach/Flickr

About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.

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