In possibly the most high stakes scavenger hunt of recent times, artist Iván Sikic buried a gold nugget valued at approximately $2,000 US dollars and invited the public to scavenge for it for three days only.
The rules were simple: whoever found the little yellow disk got to keep it. The hunting grounds were in an abandoned mansion in Lima, and the estimated 54 tons of dirt that carpeted the floor made the task arduous. Visitors stumbled over the dunes and transferred mounds of soil into paper bags in the process of excavation.
“LOOT,” or “SAQUEO” in Spanish, was a response to the illegal gold mining in Peru, the artists’ home country. Both the history and current state of gold mining in Peru is unsavory at best. Its roots can be traced back to imperialism, as Spanish conquistadores exploited Peruvian land for their own profit.
Illegal mining today has vast implications. As contemporary art theorist Jorge Lopez Canales explains, “It should come as no surprise that drug barons depend on illegal mining to launder their proceedings. The work of men, women and children in inhumane conditions, the spread of pollution in the Amazon basin along with large-scale deforestation are just a few of the most visible side effects of a larger number of depressing issues that include, amongst others, the trafficking of arms and explosives, the gradual disintegration of indigenous communities and the sexual exploitation of minors.”
In “LOOT,” Sikec brings this significant but often overlooked issue into the capitol in the most concrete way possible. By placing the exhibit in an abandoned mansion, he also juxtaposes the imbalance of wealth centered in the capital with harsh reality of those living in its periphery.
Not only is the piece a political statement, it is also a comment on a darker side of human nature. “LOOT tackles an issue that is the result of human behavior,” Sikic explained for a Huffington Post interview. In this immersive work, Sikic “felt it was important to put the viewer at the center of the work (by inviting them to participate in the creation of it) in order to best expose the repercussions of humanity’s actions.” Unfortunately for the diggers, no one was able to find the nugget, forcing Sikic to paw through his creation in order to excavate it.
Skeptical? You can check out the Notray Public certificate “testifying and witnessing the burial of the gold nugget in the house” that Sikic posted on his site here.
h/t: The Creators Project