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Turning powerful stats into art

Working on Earth Day with my class April 22nd I stumbled onto this TED video by Artist Chris Jordan. It was filmed in 2008 but I am assuming the facts are still interesting. It sure was an eye-opener for me! Photographer Chris Jordan trains his eye on American consumption. His 2003-05 series “Intolerable Beauty” examines the hypnotic allure of the sheer amount of stuff we make and consume every day: cliffs of baled scrap, small cities of shipping containers, endless grids of mass-produced goods.

Paper cups

This is one of the images that made an impression on me, lots of paper cups. Here a transcript of that particular part of the talk: 

This is an image I just recently completed, that is — when you stand back at a distance, it looks like some kind of neo-Gothic, cartoon image of a factory spewing out pollution. And as you get a little bit closer, it starts looking like lots of pipes, like maybe a chemical plant, or a refinery, or maybe a hellish freeway interchange. And as you get all the way up close, you realize that it’s actually made of lots and lots of plastic cups. And in fact, this is one million plastic cups, which is the number of plastic cups that are used on airline flights in the United States every six hours. We use four million cups a day on airline flights, and virtually none of them are reused or recycled. They just don’t do that in that industry. 

Classroom application

  1. Show this video to your class and have them discuss the issues they think are the most interesting
  2. Have the students write on their blogs about one of the issues
  3. This video describes the situation in the USA, how does this compare to your country / other countries?


About Ann S. Michaelsen (542 Articles)
Teacher working in a new high school in Norway. Using web 2.0 to engange the students and connect wiht others using blogs. All my students write their own blogs too

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