Running the Numbers: An American
February 28–April 6, 2008
Seattle-based artist Chris Jordon’s very large format photographs are as mesmerizing as they are unsettling. Through these photographs, Jordan provides a contemporary American self-portrait by juxtaposing haunting and spectacular images with mind-boggling statistics. Each digitally remixed image presents visual specificity alongside explanatory raw data. Cell Phones, 2007, depicts 426,000 cell phones, a number equal to those discarded by Americans in a single day; Paper, 2007, depicts the 30,000 reams of office paper, or 15 million sheets, that are consumed by Americans every five minutes; and Plastic Bottles, 2007, colorfully represents the two million plastic beverage bottles consumed by Americans every five minutes.
Jordon’s work is compelling and provocative. It has been featured in theNew York Times and on National Public Radio. While it provides the cold hard facts of American consumption, it does not deny consumerism’s aesthetic seductions and material pleasures. The photos possess an almost magnetic pull. From a distance, patterns are discernable, formal, and symmetrical. . But as a viewer moves closer, individual objects of everyday use become visible and tangible. They provoke both reflection and anxiety. The effects of personal consumption are tied to their collective consequences in a visually striking strategy.
Jordon’s unique artistic vision reveals the dialectical tensions between individual pleasures and collective costs. His work seeks to expose “the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.” He hopes that his photographs will raise “the consciousness of the viewer so that they start thinking more about the collective that we’re all a part of.” Running the Numbers is a digital distillation of the ecological politics of our time.
About the Artist
Chris Jordan is a photographer who portrays the detritus of our mass culture—piles of cell phones, plastic bottles, paper, and the like. His work is exhibited widely in the United States and Europe, and has been featured in print media, blogs, documentary films, and radio and television programs worldwide. Most recently he has been appeared on Bill Moyer’s Journal (PBS) and The Colbert Report (Comedy Central). Jordan lives and works in Seattle, Washington.
Ithaca College Responds to Running the Numbers
On Thursday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m., the Handwerker Gallery will host a special roundtable discussion featuring faculty from the Roy H. Park School of Communications, the School of Business, and the School of Humanities and Sciences, as well as several Ithaca College students, discussing their analysis, reactions, and interactions with this exhibition.