Ekene Ijeoma: Wage Islands

ADC Member's interactive installation beautifully illustrates how wage gaps affect NYC access inequality

Income inequality is a subject that has received an increasing amount of press, particularly in New York, where skyrocketing housing costs are quickly making the city unaffordable for large swaths of the population. Brooklyn-based designer, programmer and ADC Member Ekene Ijeoma‘s latest project is a stunningly stark representation of the issue.

Entitled “Wage Islands” Ekene’s installation is a 3D map of New York that rests in a tank of water; elevations are based on housing costs, with lower costs at the peaks and higher costs at the base. Using electronic controls, guests can raise and lower the map according to hourly wages.

“I thought of ‘Wage Islands’ at Re3Storyhack, a ‘hackathon for storytellers with a conscience’ where creatives and technologists projects were driven by non-profit organizations not corporations,” Ijeoma says in an interview with Vice’s ‘The Creators Project’. The installation was also inspired by the now famous (and ADC Gold Cube-winning) Hurricane Sandy cover of New York magazine. “I wanted to design a big data-driven interactive installation that could give you that same visceral feeling,” he says.

Of course a project of this complexity is nearly impossible to do by oneself. “Richard Dunks and Juan Francisco Saldarriaga helped with the geographic data modeling. Ryan Whitby and Jordan Tait helped with the 3D modeling and laser cutting. I glued together around 500 laser cut parts for the model. What a puzzle!” Ekene explains. “Gwylim Johnstone, Dallas Swindle, Eric Macneil, and Pepin Gelardi helped with the mechanical engineering, which was the most difficult. It took a lot of trial-and-error to stop water from leaking into the motors. Lastly, Jonathan Dahan and Jonathan Sparks helped with the Arduino wiring and programming.”

‘Wage Islands’ is on display at SoHo’s Storefront for Art & Architecture from now until September 19, as part of its Measure exhibit.