Chris Jordan's Newest Artistry of Scale: E Pluribus Unum

From his Running the Numbers series—in which he showed the sheer mass behind our collective consumption of everything from plastic bags to to Barbie dolls to electronics—to his photos of the plastic-filled stomachs of deceased seagulls, the photographer Chris Jordan has demonstrated a knack for capturing the dizzying mounds of detritus we create. In his newest piece, he strikes a decidedly more hopeful tone.

E Pluribus Unum "[d]epicts the names of one million organizations around the world that are devoted to peace, environmental stewardship, social justice, and the preservation of diverse and indigenous culture." Jordan laser-etched those names on aluminum in a geometric pattern.

The purpose of this piece is to visualize the vast network of altruistic human organizations in every country, city, and community around the world, all working in parallel together. Despite their enormous diversity of size, focus, and geographic location, these organizations are all united around a set of core values that places compassion and stewardship as highest priorities. The hundreds of millions of individuals who are creating and running these organizations bring a nourishing culture of passion, imagination, and citizenship to this process. In that way I think of this piece as being like a compass, pointing toward a true source of hope and inspiration for our times.


Jordan writes that the project began as a mathematical attempt to represent the sound of a huge gong (that's the shape you see in the zoomed out version below) that hangs in his studio. His formula for creating the shape was to place 108 points in a circle and connect all of them (except the opposing points) with a straight line. All of those straight lines create the illusion of roundness, a bit like in a spider web—or, more figuratively, the global web of people and organizations devoted to service around the world.

The 130,000 organization names come from Paul Hawken's WiserEarth project, and were repeated a few times to make 1 million names total, which Jordan calls "a conservative estimate for the actual number of such organizations worldwide."

Images courtesy of Chris Jordan (2010).

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