Running the Numbers with Alex

Running The Numbers

One of the things Alex and I did at the Boston Museum of Science was visit the  Running the numbers. Portraits of Mass Consumption by Chris Jordan gallery. There are these huge pictures on the walls made up very tiny images.

From the MOS website:
Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand. Yet, understanding the consequences of our choices requires us to comprehend the incremental effect of millions or billions of small acts. How can we sensitize ourselves and, in turn, change our choices?
Photographer Chris Jordan's large-format prints, assembled from thousands of smaller photographs, dramatically translate the raw language of statistics into powerful images of global mass culture that we can respond to emotionally. Seeing the cumulative impact of individual actions through this talented artist's lens awakens us to the enormity of our personal decisions.

I'd seen examples of this work online before, but seeing it in real life is a completely different experience because of the size.  The sociologist are right and these images are terrifying.

Alex and the Bottles

The card next to this image reads "Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes."

Online these pictures are interesting. Seeing them full size is shocking. The canvas is so large you have to step back half way across the hall to get the entire picture into view.  At the same time the images that make up the whole are so small you need to get inches away to make out each individual one.

I hear about numbers like  two million, and it seems manageable. But when Alex and I saw 2 million bottles right there in front of us I was shocked. And I believe this was the artists intention. In 5 minutes we (just the US) went through more plastic bottles than my mind can comfortably comprehend. It begs the questions - Where did all that material come from and where did it go? When will it run out?

 It's a powerful exhibit and well worth the trip to the museum.