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Running the Numbers - An American Self-Portrait

Kanada Kev

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This is a very interesting way to depict some statistical numbers that otherwise might just go right over your head. Follow the link below:

Running the Numbers

An American Self-Portrait

This new 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 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

My only caveat about this series is that the prints must be seen in person to be experienced the way they are intended. As with any large artwork, their scale carries a vital part of their substance which is lost in these little web images. Hopefully the JPEGs displayed here might be enough to arouse your curiosity to attend an exhibition, or to arrange one if you are in a position to do so. The series is still in its early stages, and new images will be posted as they are completed, so please stay tuned.

~cj, January 2007



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Wow, that's some amazing stats/ artwork, thanks for posting that Kev. It makes me recall this movie I have yet to see called Manufactured Landscapes. I'm now on a search to find/see it. Anyone seen it? http://www.mercuryfilms.ca/burtynsky_intro_06.html

Thanks for the tip. I'm d/l'ing a copy of it now:


Hopefully I'll get a chance to watch it soon.

I enjoyed Oil: The World Over a Barrel as well. I caught it on CBC back in March. Maybe they'll show it again:


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Here's another item in a similar vein. This one is about the disposal of computer parts (the site has some other cool photo essays):



Technology drives the forces of globalization. But when we replace our computers and flat-screens with the newest in high-tech cool, what happens to the hardware we throw away? Welcome to the digital dumping ground, where the poor make a living off other people’s spare parts.

Each year, between 20 and 50 million tons of electronic waste is generated globally. Most of it winds up in the developing world.

Some of the most popular destinations for dumping computer hardware include China, India, and Nigeria. It can be 10 times cheaper for a “recycler†to ship waste to China than to dispose of it properly at home. With the market for e-waste expected to top $11 billion by 2009, it’s lucrative to dump on the developing world.

Computers are much more than just wires and plastic; they are also a source of highly valuable metals, including gold, copper, and aluminum. One ton of computer scrap contains more gold than 17 tons of gold ore. Circuit boards can be 40 times richer in copper than typical copper ore. For this reason, workers in e-waste dumps in the southern Chinese city of Guiyu carefully sort the computers’ hardware and melt down the most valuable parts.

Lead, mercury, and cadmium are a computer’s most common toxic substances. When melted down, the machines release even more toxins into the air, ground, and water.

Although developing countries occasionally attempt to ban e-waste, the shipments can be vital to local economies. Some disposal sites in China employ more than 100,000 people. In Guiyu, the average worker can earn between $2 and $4 a day for disassembling what was once someone else’s brand-new computer.

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yeah, i did check that out. all the photoessays were really well done, and educated me about stuff you just dont hear about everyday. acutally considering subscibing.

hard not to feel pangs of guilt, when clicking my mouse and loooking at the full journey my computer might take when it leaves me. (guilt for the numerous items i have which will eventually be plumagged and then discarded contributing to the waste in the world).

personally i think we should start small and ban plastic bags (like the thread a while back) and charge an extra dollar for coffee cups instead of getting the ten cents off when you bring your own.

...and of course massively tax whichever business genearates mass amount of garbage then wipe their hands of it having nothing to do with its disposal.

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