A promotional poster for Wes Heiss’s “Chariot” (all images courtesy the artist)

Traveling through the air is a humbling enterprise. No one is above the law of gravity; it’s an equalizing force that flattens all hierarchies. What goes up must come down, regardless of what it is. Down below distinctions between the 99 and 1 percent might seem more substantial, some of us own car elevators for instance, but on an airplane, coach and first-class are essentially just as noisy and uncomfortable during a crash landing. It seems a shame to think one second you might be winning the rat race and the next you could suffer the same fate as the dude in dead last. We might all be “children of the same God,” but I think Mitt Romney would agree that the ledger sheet of life should be fair and therefore unbalanced. Those who have earned the means to stave off meeting our maker prematurely should have the option to do so, and the Chariot, conceived by artist Wes Heiss, offers a solution for anyone worthy of a golden parachute.

A view of the “Chariot” model in the gallery (click to enlarge)

Wes Heiss’s presentation of “Chariot” at Vox Populi, an artist-run gallery in Philly, is a modest proposal for an uber-wealthy escape pod. Offering all the trappings of a trade show, Heiss’s exhibition convincingly makes a case for protecting oneself from a plebeian demise. Including realistic CAD renderings, a commercial-ready video, and a 1:4 scale model prototype, the promotional package is made complete with a most unnerving tagline, “Because your life is worth it.”

Although originally exhibited in 2010 as a response to post-9/11 paranoia, Chariot can now be seen as a fitting metaphor for an election year highlighted by the disparity between the haves and have-nots. In a day and age when issues like health care, tax reform, and economic policy in general dominate the national conversation, it’s hard not to see in Heiss’s work a commentary on the luxuries afforded to the privileged few. And what better throne for the 1 percent, one that is impervious to the outside world, a hermetically sealed vacuum of blissful ignorance and safety from the pitfalls that beset the rest.

Wes Heiss’s Chariot continues at Vox Populi (319 N 11th Street, 3rd Floor, Center City, Philadelphia) until Sunday, October 28.

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