Running the numbers – an American self-portrait

I was pointed to the art of Chris Jordan by a friend, currently doing her eco-part by living in a van in Hawaii, only to return to live in a van when the Lotus-land temperatures are temperate.

Anyway, Running the Numbers takes a run at contemporary American culture, turning statistics into startling images not easily forgotten. And that of course–for us statistically uncomprehending–is the point.

Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on.

Visually astonishing and socially activating–here’s an artist you’ll want to keep track of, because as a reader of growmercy, I know you care about our earth.


As Chris Jordan explains,

My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone… 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 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.


  1. Yes! I saw this artist featured on a program… probably Evening Magazine, since he’s from Seattle.

    He showed how he and his wife take the pictures, or at least some of them. The “bits” are scattered atop a tarp and he rakes the items. Then takes the picture from atop a very tall ladder.

    We went to the Green Festival on Sunday; INCREDIBLE! I highly recommend going to a green festival in you neighborhood. There is some incredible information, and wonderful arts and crafts brought in from other countries who make beautiful pieces from our garbage. I bought earrings out of aluminum tabs from tin cans. They were made in Africa. Bead for Life was also there; the beads were impressive and even more beautiful up close.

    I’d heard of it, but was even more impressed with the “piece of poo” offered to me in form of paper. Yes, paper can be made from poo; this was made from elephant poo. F and I saw paper made from sheep poo on Gordon Ramsay’s program, “The F Word” on the BBC. I’d just never seen it before.

    This event reminded me of how much society has changed over the generations, and how the ideas to “reuse” simply just meant “being poor.”

  2. well…. I suppose they could. The paper I saw was heavier, and more like artsy construction paper, but very soft and fibrous. Hmmmm gives sustainable a whole new definition doesn’t it?

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