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Chris Jordan – Picturing Excess

Chris Jordan is one of the most conscious visual artists working today.  If you haven’t been introduced to his photographic artwork, now is the time to become acquainted.  Check out his web-site at ChrisJordan.com.  His works are enormous, aesthetically beautiful, mind-boggling, and thought-provoking.  I was introduced to Chris’ works through a video of his presentation on TED Talks.  This may be a great starting point for anyone who is not yet familiar with what Chris is doing. 

Chris Jordan

Chris puts statistics into a visual format so that we can truly understand.  Facts and statistics are often provided to inform or to educate.  However, statistics and facts are overwhelming and often completely impossible to comprehend.  A problem arises when facts contain very large numbers.  What does 1 billion actually mean?  When statistics contain gigantic numbers, they lose their meaning because it is just too difficult to comprehend how big they really are.  Chris’ work attempts to break down the barriers between the language of statistics and facts that bombard us in an age of information overload, and to allow us to find meaning. 

Chris understands that seeing is believing, and he creates a visual portrait of our world today that allows us to see and understand just how wasteful we are.  Chris has created two series of works titled Running the Numbers.  The first series is An American Self-Portrait.  His second is A Portrait of Global Mass Culture.  The works in these series show us an arresting view of what Western culture looks like.  His supersized images picture some almost unimaginable statistics — like the astonishing number of paper cups we use every single day.

Running the Numbers

Chris creates these enormous images in order to help us feel more as a society; in order for issues to really matter to us.  He aims to break through the anesthetizing effect that most statistics have.  His main goal is to help us to wake up from our slumbering state of mass consumption, to face the facts, and to find ways to create change.  His artworks make us confront the real issues of our time, and they make us question how we are going to create change.  Perhaps this is why I love Chris’ work so much.  I feel where Chris is coming from.   Often I feel the need to scream WAKE UP.  I feel that too many of us need to wake up and take our heads out of the sand.  It is time for us to stop pretending that there is nothing wrong with our culture of global mass consumption.  It is time for us to stop many things.  It is time for us to wake up, and to demand change, create change, and to be the change that we want to see in this world.


15 Responses

  1. Thanks, I’m going to visit his web-site.

  2. Here are my thoughts on what Chris Jordan is doing.

    Chris Jordan is taking pictures of things and he is up-sizing them.
    He takes pictures of things with really big number that nobody really gets if they just look at the number.
    By taking pictures of things, he can really tell people that the way we are living is wrong, and that we should change now before it’s too late.

    I think what Chris Jordan is doing is a pretty good thing. It shows people that the ways we are living right now are not right. We should stop wasting so much and take care of the place where we live.
    If everyone in the world would take care of where they live then, I think the world would be a better place to live.

    But, for me, personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the world today.
    I guess I could be wrong, and the reason I think this is because I haven’t really seen much of the world, and really I don’t care much for this issue.
    I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, I do care a little about the world and how things are going, but I guess this really hasn’t been an issue for me. I could change my mind about this if I learn more about it.
    But for now my mind is set on what I believe.

  3. My Summary:
    Chris Jordan is a man that goes around the world talking about change. He wants people to change the way they look at things. Chris Jordan is a very intelligent speaker and who presents many interesting facts and statistics.

    My Feelings:
    I feel very proud of him because he is trying very hard to get people to understand the ways of change and what we need to do to change. I also felt very interested in his artwork.

    My Thoughts:
    I think Chris Jordan is very smart and intelligent to come up with such true and interesting ideas, and to be able to get people’s attention to make a change before it’s too late.

    My Opinions:
    I really like Chris Jordan’s way of doing things. It’s a very cool and thoughtful provoking idea.

    How I Relate & My Point of View:
    I can see where he is coming from and what he is asking.
    From my point of view, I don’t really understand how big of a difference it’s going to make until I see it! I know it will make a big difference but I don’t think everybody is willing to make that big difference because there are some people who just don’t care how they live life. That is just my point of view.

  4. I think Chris Jordan’s objective is to get us to change and to start being more environmentally friendly. I believe that Chris Jordan may also believe in 2012 and if it does happen we’ll wish we did something to prevent it from occurring.
    The world, I think, would be better if more people tried to change, as Chris is trying to do. He goes all over the world to try and influence others to change. An example of this is his series of pictures from the Midway, the pictures of the dead Albatross birds were disturbing to say the least (and gross).
    His art is not really art to me… it’s a way of influencing and expression through visual aid. There are several examples of this. One example is his enormous photo of the folded jail shirts, which symbolizes all of the American people in prison. Another example is his image of Snoopy Dog hugging Charlie Brown which symbolizes ten thousand dog and cat collars, which equals the average amount of unwanted cats and dogs in the USA. Even the skull smoking which symbolizes two hundred thousand packs cigarettes, which also equals the amount of people that died from smoking in America every six months, is an example.
    One piece of his series of photos is an image of lots of cell phones. When I first saw this picture, I thought it was just gray coloring. When I first saw most of his work, I though differently compared to when I knew what it was. His image of plastic cups, I thought were just pipes.

  5. I think that Chris Jordan’s message is to make people more aware about what is happening to our world. I also think that his message is that we have to change what we are doing before it is too late to change. I think he is doing what he is doing to wake people up so that they can see what is happening to the world around us.
    His art represents some of the things that are happening in the world. Like the one million plastic cups on airline flights that don’t get recycled.
    Another example of his work is the two million plastic drinking bottles that are used every five minutes. I think that Chris Jordan tries to change people’s opinions about what we do in the world and how we can change it.

    • I believe that Chris Jordan is setting a good example and that he is showing us very clearly what we are doing wrong. He is showing us that we have to change the way we live our lives everyday and he is telling us not to use so much. We have to recycle every item that is harmful to animals such as the Albatross.
      After watching his videos of the Midway Atoll, I was shocked at how the baby Alcatraz died because of our waste. It made me feel like we have to change our world before it to late. These species will die one by one if we don’t stop the way we live; if we don’t stop the trash we throw away and don’t recycle. This is our last chance; so let’s make change before it is to late.

  6. I think that Chris Jordan’s message is a warning. I think that he is doing what he’s doing in order to show us what we need to know. I think that what he does is shocking because he is showing us how we are such a wasteful society. It makes me see that things need to change, and that they need to change quickly. I believe that our current possibility of reaching sustainability is very weak.
    From Chris’s pictures of our global mass consumption, we can see that the visual is often more important than just the statistics. Chris Jordan makes seeing, believing. I think that doing the art work rather than just talking about it and just showing people what we are doing is making it more real for us; I know that it’s shocking and it’s true, and it makes us think about what we are doing. Chris Jordan is doing a good job of inspiring change in our universe.
    I believe that what he is doing is making us aware. Our planet has been recently wasting so much of everything, especially plastic and oil and everything we can get our hands on. Sometimes I think that one day we will eventually use up everything, and we already are beginning to. A lot of our lakes are drying up and our forests are being cut down. And it’s all because we want everything, and the people on this planet are so dependable on technology. It is actually depressing to realize what’s going on. However, I think we need to make a group effort to help our planet. We are in denial and nobody wants to admit anything, and if you think about it, we are all part of the problem if we are not part of the solution. Our future doesn’t look very promising if we don’t stop now or attempt to change now.

  7. My Thoughts on Global Mass Consumption

    I think Chris’ message is to awaken large numbers of people, and to help them realize that what is happening in our world needs to stop immediately. He is trying to help us realize that it’s not going to change if everyone is just sleeping, and not doing anything about it. Our environment, our world is suffering from all of the stuff we as a culture are wasting. We are wasting outrageous amounts of oil, plastic bottles and cups, light bulbs and many other things. What Chris does is figures out the statistics about the massive waste we are doing and puts it all together in visual format, to make us see how much we are actually wasting. Every little thing we waste whether small or not, it adds up. All of the things that we are wasting, and doing to our world is just going to keep on getting worse for the future if we don’t stop it and make changes now.
    I believe that if everyone starts to get up and understand that what we are doing is wrong; if we all together try to change it, we can. If we want our future to be a nice healthy living environment we are going to have to make it be one now. It will not just happen on its own.
    Chris is a very strong man who stands up for what he believes. And he believes that we all need to make a change, and I completely agree with him. Just looking at the pictures that Chris has created and put online has made me actually think about it.
    The numbers of items that we don’t recycle or reuse again is completely ridiculous. Why do we waste everything, sometimes when nothing is even wrong with it? We just want something new so we throw the old away? There are people in many countries that would be happy if they could drink clean bottled water, happy if they actually had a sweater they could wear, or shoes. Yet people who have it are just throwing it out, when others could be using it.

  8. Chris Jordan is trying to make sense of big numbers in a visual way. I think that he wants to show that some people’s little every day habits build up and cause terrible things without us thinking about it. Let’s say you go get a coffee and use a paper cup. It’s one paper cup… what’s the big deal? Well, what about the other hundreds of thousands of people who decide to get a cup of coffee? The numbers add up without us even thinking about it. He mainly focuses on America, but that’s just one country deciding to have a cup of coffee, or a bottle of water, or a bag for groceries… He believes that we are wasteful, and it needs to change. Just because it doesn’t seem as if we’re harming anyone, entire species may become extinct because of this. His goal is to wake this world up and get us to open our eyes a little more.
    I think what he is doing has impacted many people. Sometimes, the numbers seem so big, and you can’t help but say, “We can’t stop that… why should I help,” or something like that. But everyone can help. Every little bit helps.
    I think he is only focusing on the bad parts of our world. Sure, there are a lot of atrocious things going on, but what about everyone who’s helping to solve this problem. I think he should do a before and after picture of how much we were using and how much we are now using. Surely there must be a least one thing we as a community are doing right.
    Since looking at Chris Jordan’s works, I’ve stopped and looked twice about some things I do in my daily life. For instance, I’ve been using the computer to write down things rather than using paper. It makes things easier to find, and they can’t be torn and ripped like a paper. Also, when I go to get a drink at the store, I re-use a thermos or a go-cup. Even if it’s only a little bit, I want to help.

    • Thanks for your well-thought response.
      If we can all do several little things it WILL add up, and we will make a difference. It will create a climate where wasting is not cool, and those who don’t stop to think about it will be looked upon as the ignorant ones. The small things can create a social climate in which much larger things (sustainable energy sources, hydrogen cars, etc…) will also become more possible because we are thinking about the difference that we make.

  9. […] Chris Jordan – Picturing Excess […]


    In my mind Chris Jordan is someone who really cares about our future on planet earth. He wants people to understand that the ways by which we are living are not humane to the earth, because if we keep treating this world like we are now it is going to be unlivable. I have to say I believe in him now. I used to think that global warming was ‘a bunch of crap’. However, now that I can understand what’s going on on this planet, I understand it is really happening. I wish I could be more like him and lead people into the right way to the “Green Side”. I cant be just like Chris, so I’m starting to tell my family to recycle, and now we are. I have told my family about basic things, like not using as many plastic bottles all the time. Now we have water bottles that we can reuse over and over again.

    The most amazing thing occurred that I thought would never happen. One day my dad and I went for lunch and he asked me what I was doing English. I responded, telling him about what we were reading about the environment and Chris Jordan. So we got into detail about what we were exactly learning (The Midway Atoll), and to my surprise he knew about it. He had read about it in the Rolling Stone. This surprised me because my dad doesn’t give a hoot about the environment. If I scaled how much he cared out of ten, it would be under one. However, since he read this, he has been more cautious about all the stuff that he wastes. So Chris Jordan is starting to finally get his message across to people. If its getting out in major magazines, more people will understand that something has to change.

    So as Chris is doing a major part in trying to change our world, I’m going to try to make smaller changes among my friends and family. I’m going to do what I feel I should be doing to help maintain the world’s health. I’m going to make sure I tell anyone that is concerned about the environment about what I know and how to learn more about it by reading up on Chris Jordan. Since I started this class, I learned more about the environment and its problems then I have in my whole life.

  11. I think that Chris Jordan is making a great point about how the people on our planet are acting. He is doing a good job of showing us, through proof – visual evidence, the consequences of our actions. He does this through enormous prints of digital photographs, an artform that he does well at.
    Chris Jordan is trying to make a change in the minds of people; trying to make us think about how we can fix the problems we have been creating for years. He is showing us that what we are doing is helping us right now, but it’s also destroying our ability to live sustainably into the future.
    I have heard many people talk about pollution and the stuff that Chris is talking about, but Chris has made the biggest impact on me, because he didn’t just tell it to us, he showed it to us in ways that people never would be able to project in their head, that’s how big the numbers are.
    I totally agree with what Chris is doing, because I do understand the problems in the world today. I really want the world to change, and be a healthier planet. If I knew a way that I could help Chris out in his stuff, I would. I will do my best to remember to recycle and not use things that are extremely pointless. I will also do my best to get other people in my life to help out the problem, by slowly making small but effective changes.

  12. Instead of just saying that the world needs to change, Chris Jordan takes huge statistics that have to do with things like global warming and stuff that the world needs to change, and creates pictures with them. I think that Chris Jordan realized that people are getting tired of others just telling them about global warming. They weren’t getting the “big picture’. What Chris Jordan is doing is really great. He is really having a huge impact on the earth and is making people see that we truly have to change our ways before it is too late. His work has also made me realize that we must start to do things differently. Like his one picture that depicts one million plastic cups, which is the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours. It’s crazy how we do such wasteful things, without even thinking about it. The statistics that he uses are so huge that some people may not even believe him, but you have to think, why would he use up all of his time and effort to do something that doesn’t even matter? Clearly he is worth listening to and making an effort to change for.

  13. Chris’ message is change. He is showing people any way that he can that we need to change our way of living, its just small things in our everyday life that we can change little small easy things can make a big change.
    Chris is doing his best to show people that we need change in our environment and he is doing it because for the future generation there would be uch of a world left. were slowly destroying our world.
    Chris Believes that if he shows poeple what these statistics are really doing to the world and that they are effecting all of North America in a big way, and if he shows people they could actually see and change.
    I think that Chris is really determined to change the world around and im really inpressed how he wants to change and it makes me want to change my self. To see some one try so hard to show people what he strongly believes that we can turn around makes me want to try and change and now thats my goal is to do the best that i could do.

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