Wednesday, February 27, 2008

TED@Aspen... Chris Jordan, Artist

Chris Jordan just finished his talk. Great presentation of his art, thinking and passion. Inspirational. He spoke from his recent work:

Running the Numbers

An American Self-Portrait
"This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. 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. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. 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 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming..." (full text at his website)

So Chris presented various facts while showing his work...

40 million paper cups are used everyday in the U.S.

1/4 of the people in prison are in the U.S.
2.3 million Americans were incarcerated in 2007.

1,100 people die each day from smoking.

1/3 of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are by prescription drugs.

384,000 breast augmentations in the U.S. in 2006. The pictures below are 32,000 Barbies, equal to the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries performed monthly in the U.S. in 2006.

Jordan continues by stating his concerns...

"I fear that we aren't feeling enough... there is no sense of outrage any more... there is no national joy...

We're dealing with numbers in the billions and trillions...
We can't make meaning out of today's enormous amounts of data..."

So these concerns led to his work. A visual representation of these out of control numbers. So his big question was, "How do we change?"

Definitely inspirational.

Since this is the first conference I've tried live blogging at, I found myself to be lame so far:) Anyway, Chris Jordan's art and statistics got me thinking...

"2.3 million Americans were incarcerated in 2007." So what does this mean? We're an overzealous society when it comes to imprisoning people or criminals? Is this a statistic that reflects the most orderly society on our planet? We have review and change our legal and criminal justice system?

"1/3 of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. are by prescription drugs." So what do we do? Do create an awareness campaign on this issue? Will this be effective? Are there gaps at the retail level that allow for this abuse? Do we push on lawmakers to regulate this space better? Who are these deaths? Teens? Twenty-somethings?

"384,000 breast augmentations in the U.S. in 2006." Did Chris say this was a majority of woman under 20 years old? 18 years old? When did this shift to younger women occur? How? Media messages burned into young women that enhanced breasts make them more beautiful? Misleading advertisements by plastic surgeons? Is our society becoming more shallow?


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