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About the Exhibition

January 13–March 11, 2011 in the Kaemmer Family Gallery of the Perlman Teaching Museum. 

Running the Numbers presents large but intricate color images based on statistics to visually dramatize aspects of contemporary American culture. Employing detailed photographic prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs, artist Chris Jordan hopes to “raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.”

How we depict information affects how we perceive it. By far the most common way we describe large-scale phenomena is through statistics. The news bombards us with them daily. But statistics can be dry and daunting, even when the phenomena they describe are of global importance. How then to convey the enormous import of these measures, these numbers?

Photographer Chris Jordan brings these staggering numbers to life in constructed digital photographs that are at once alluring and shocking. This exhibition helps us visually comprehend the impacts of our culture and breathes a different kind of life into the numbers.

“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 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.”