World's Fair

Artists Chris Jordan, from Seattle, has a fascinating series of images making “contemporary American culture” more visible. It’s called “Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait.”

The series will be on display at New York’s Von Lintel Gallery starting mid-June. A student of mine sent me the link, and I’ll put a few of the images below. This is right up the same alley as Dave’s post a while back on “What different parts of the world eats in one week.” But check out Chris Jordan’s site, and check out the actual show in person if you can.

In quiz fashion, then, I ask: what is the image below a representation of? Click below the fold to see.

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The one above is closer in…

And here it is, a zoom in on the two million plastic beverage bottles we in the US every five minutes.

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Oh hell, here’s another sample, this one with just the wide view and the close view.
First the wide view: what is it?

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Now the zoomed in view reveals the 60,000 plastic bags we use in the US every five seconds!!

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The site linked above has a set of these kinds of zoom-ins, all provocative imagery, all thoughtfully done as a way, Jordan says, to offer something beyond the raw numbers one sees in articles and books. “Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day.”

Finally, keep in mind the artist’s request too:

My only caveat about this series is that the prints must be seen in person to be experienced the way they are intended. As with any large artwork, their scale carries a vital part of their substance which is lost in these little web images. Hopefully the JPEGs displayed here might be enough to arouse your curiosity to attend an exhibition, or to arrange one if you are in a position to do so. The series is a work in progress, and new images will be posted as they are completed, so please stay tuned.

Post-script: the images above also seem like a nice complement to the recent post by Craig McClain about reducing plastic use. And all of this in the ominous, post-Napalm shadows of those &#%$ Dow Chemical ads!! all over the blog.


  1. #2 Thomas Robey
    June 7, 2007

    Three Letters: OMG!

  2. #3 Brandon
    June 9, 2007

    These pictures are beautiful. How much of this was done with computer and how much by hand?

  3. #4 BRC
    June 10, 2007

    Good question Brandon — I’m trying to find out myself, in a note to the artist. BRC