Lies, Damn Lies and the Art of Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan is a Seattle-based photographer who is receiving growing acclaim for his series of dramatic images devoted to what one usually thinks of as the driest of all topics: statistics. But not just any statistics. Jordan has chosen to visually demonstrate the wildly out of control nature of our consumer culture through photographic constructs that bring home the numbing statistics that express the scope of our ravaging consumerism.
As Jordan puts it, "The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.
"As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake."
If all art can be categorized as either being created to keep us asleep or to wake us up, Jordan's photographic creations are definitely to be found in the second category. The work above, Cans Seurat, looks at first glance like A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the most well-known work of the French pointillist painter Georges Seurat (on display at the Art Institute of Chicago). In fact, the pointillist effect is due to it having being created from the images of 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the U.S. every thirty seconds.
The photograph is part of a current Running the Numbers series, which includes images depicting the number of trees cut in the U.S. yearly to make the paper for junk mail (100 million, illustrated with toothpicks), the number of plastic cups used on airline flights in the U.S. every six hours (1 million) and even the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the U.S. in 2006 (depicted with the aid of a rather incredible army of 32,000 Barbie dolls.
It's thought-provoking work that's also technically very accomplished and well worth exploring on Chris Jordan's site.