21. January 2009 · Comments Off on Running the Numbers – American Excess in Art · Categories: Art, Commentary, Environment

A friend of mine sent me a URL for an amazing photographic artist, Chris Jordan. His web site has four collections of his art. All of them have incredible visual and visceral impact, but the one that affected me the most is Running the Numbers; An American Self-Portrait.

The artist’s objective is to help us visualize many of the statistics we encounter each day. The photographs are huge, often-times multi-paneled images of everyday objects such as oil drums, Barbie dolls, toothpicks, even cigarette cartons — but with a statistical twist. For example, one huge panel of 60″x120″ is of two million (2,000,000) plastic beverage bottles — the number of which are used in only five minutes in the United States.

These statistical images range from the number of barrels of oil consumed in the U.S. every two minutes (28,000) to the number of breast augmentation surgeries performed in the US each month (32,000), each of which is represented by a Barbie doll. Individually each of these images has a tremendous capacity to change how we perceive many of the huge numbers we are presented with each day in the news. Taken together, and with his other collections, they form a visual indictment of American conspicuous consumption and its ecological and social impact.

The URL for the home page of Mr. Jordan’s site is below. All of the collections are amazing, but Running the Numbers; An American Self-Portrait is stunning. You will never view common items like your cell phone, Barbie dolls, plastic cups, or a light bulb in the same way again. Which is, of course the artists intent.


I would be interested in your reactions to this art. Please leave comments below.