Running Some Ugly Numbers: Portraits of Mass Consumption

Image: “Gyre,” 2009. ©Chris Jordan.

Last night I attended Chris Jordan‘s “Running the Numbers: Portraits of Mass Consumption” exhibition at the University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History.

Jordan uses large photographic portraits to put a face to the sometimes abstract waste statistics we hear bandied about.

The centerpiece, “Gyre,” pictured above, gives a taste for what it’s about. [From my piece over at NewWest]…’Three canvas panels, eight by 11 feet in size, it is a recreation of Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s renowned “Great Wave off Kanagawa,” matched with a powerful explanation. The 2.4 million pieces of plastic ­– an amalgam of car tires, countless beverage bottles and shards of forgotten scrap – that make up the scene are equivalent to the “estimated number of pounds of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every hour.” The plastic used in the piece was collected from the Pacific Ocean.’

Image: Plastic Cups,” 2008. ©Chris Jordan

“Plastic Cups” twists the mind. From a few feet away it’s a mesh of robotic worms burrowing toward unseen holes. Overlapped and overlaid. Step closer and the minutiae come into focus: an endless supply of plastic cups stacked within each other, crammed into a deliberate frame. “Depicts one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the United States every six hours,” the caption reads.

This excerpt from Jordan’s artist’s statement gives some insight into his thought process:

“There is no Mount Everest of waste we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses,” writes Jordan in his artist’s statement. “Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible and overwhelming.”

For the full report please link through to NewWest.

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2 thoughts on “Running Some Ugly Numbers: Portraits of Mass Consumption

  1. Nice post. I like the link between artistic expression and environmental agenda. It’s mind-boggling when numbers are given a tangible expression like this… Do you know what Chris Jordan calls this kind of art?

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