I’ve written a lot about consumption this year–why bottled water isn’t cool, why plastic bags are a nuisance, why zero waste is an exciting idea. Interestingly, and unbeknownst to me, a Seattle-based photographic artist named Chris Jordan explores similar themes in an exhibit called “Running the Numbers” that opened last week at the Von Lintel Gallery in New York. Check out these images, please–they are amazing.
It turns out Jordan has been exploring American consumption for years. Here’s what he writes on his website:
The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity.
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.
Thanks to my daughter Sarah for making me aware of Jordan’s work. Here’s one example, a look at only a fraction of two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the U.S. every five minutes: