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Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait

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posted on Aug, 19 2008 @ 02:26 PM
Not sure where to put this, but seeing as this is extremely enlightening, "Education" seems like a decent place for this post to live. Please enlighten me if wrong...

Running the Numbers 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 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

This artist really puts the American life into perspective. We all get numbers thrown at us daily, that if they were to be truly conveyed to you with imagery, would send you staggering for support if you were standing.

The national debt, number of euthanized animals, casualties of war, etc-- the numbers that define these things don't seem to truly impact us as would an image of the subject.

I hope your jaws drop as mine did with the strength of this portrait.


posted on Aug, 20 2008 @ 11:53 AM
reply to post by Rashaverak

Ok, I get it. The US consumes a lot of stuff. There are a lot of people who use a lot of products. Is there a point, or is this just to plug the artist's work?

posted on Aug, 20 2008 @ 03:39 PM
Thanks for the reply, sc2099,

I didn't mean for this to be a blatant plug*, but I suppose one could misconstrue it as that. Perhaps it is my fault for not providing ample points for discussion. My aim was to help promote awareness of subjects within the collection of pieces, not necessarily for the artist, but for the content. Plus, I'm a greenhorn here, still learning the ropes, so thanks for the prodding, it helps me know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do in the future.

I was sent this by a co-worker and thought ATS would like seeing some of the subjects they talk about frequently put into actual imagery. Having just the numbers thrown around in threads, sans any actual eye candy, leaves for some vacant, non-impacted people. The numbers don't seem to hit home like they should.

- Do you think the artist's representation of the individual subjects are accurate?

- Do you think the abundance of such things, at such levels, is something that should just be accepted and not confronted, thought about, and at least attempted to be rectified?

- His presentation is a instant favorite of mine, simply because of the variety of perspectives he provides. Each piece gives a different impression, from macro to micro.

- Numbers are fascinating... especially when they approach incomprehensible values. Have you ever seen a million dollars, or a bar at full 400 persons occupancy, or a billion barrels of oil lined up? One can imagine, but when they're actually shown

- I would love to see a representation of simple human population in a similar manner, and the forecast of it increasing over the years. Any subjects you think would be worth covering, that would enlighten others?

*note - No, I'm not this artist, nor a friend, nor a business associate. I'm simply a fan of art, which is a big part of the media, dontcha think? I am, however, a big advocate of a Zero-Waste philosophy, or at least, creating the smallest amount of waste humanly possible (which is pretty friggin' hard nowadays).

My apologies for "plugging" but I certainly hope some found some enjoyment in this or at least were slightly intrigued.

Thanks for taking the time to gander,


posted on Aug, 22 2008 @ 12:54 PM
reply to post by Rashaverak

I am more than happy to reply, I just wasn't quite sure what your premise was.

Even with these visual representations numbers this large are still hard for me to fathom. I think it's because most of us will never see so many of one thing at one time in real life. Besides that, even when you're in the midst of a large number like in a stadium, your mind only acknowledges the people in your vicinity so as not to be overwhelmed.

Because of this difficulty it's hard to ever properly understand the true scale of things.

If you're into this sort of art, check out this documentary if you can, or just try to find the pictures.

Manufactured Landscapes

posted on Aug, 22 2008 @ 01:24 PM
The point might become clearer if the artist chose to make comparative studies of consumption in different countries.

Per capita would be good, too.

posted on Aug, 22 2008 @ 09:47 PM
sc2099 - Excellent point with the stadium, perceptions there are usually never tuned in to the whole. Well, I take that back... whenever I'm at the ballpark and part of a (successful) wave I'm always taken struck by the experience with so many others.

But you're right, when faced with large numbers, we seem to internalize ourselves or focus on anything but the numbers.

Thank you also for that absolutely wonderful link! I watched the trailer and was pleased. Lovely imagery and a goal behind Burtynsky's artwork. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it in full.


Scamandri-- err Astyanax: Great idea and I do agree. Perhaps this will be just his first portrait in our world of many nations.

My thanks and cheers!

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