Running the Numbers: Photographs by Chris Jordan

March 11 - June 15, 2008
Ellen Johnson Gallery

Chris Jordan's photographs investigate contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. The themes of environmental stewardship, mass consumption, waste, public health and social justice are explored through haunting, large-scale images, which cause the viewer to directly confront numbers through a visual medium. Each work portrays a specific quantity of a particular item: 15 million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use), 426,000 cell phones (the number retired every day), 106,000 aluminum cans (30 second of consumption). As Jordan plays with size and scale in these vast photographs, assembled from thousands of smaller ones, he also causes us to examine our role, responses, opinions and actions as members of a consumer society and as inhabitants of both a man-made and natural world. Images representing the quantities involved have a different and more powerful lasting effect than the raw numbers alone, which can often be mind-numbing and feel remote from daily life. As Jordan has stated, "Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing...this project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society. My underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible and overwhelming."

Chris Jordan was recently interviewed by Bill Moyers, on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal, as well as by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, and also appeared on the Rachel Ray Show, where you can see him at work. Most recently, Chris was featured on PBS/WVIZ’s arts show, Applause,
where he talked with host Dee Perry about the conception behind Running the Numbers. To see these segments, please follow the link for each show.

Organized by Andria Derstine, AMAM Curator of Western Art

Chris Jordan (American, b. 1963)
Plastic Bottles, 2007
Photographic inkjet print (detail of the 60" x 120" photograph, which
represents 2 million plastic bottles, the number used in the US every
five minutes)