State of the art #5
Crushed cars #2, Tacoma 2004
It'd be a telling experiment to ask people what they see first in Chris Jordan's work. Is it the sublimity of his scope, and the sudden grandeur he gives everyday objects? Is it the degraded wreckage left in the wake of our country's appetites? Or maybe it's even the aesthetic achievement—the sharpness of colors, the elegance of lines, his intuitive eye for balance and pattern? They're all essential to his Intolerable Beauty series, a critique of waste that can't help but also function as reluctant celebration.
Cigarette butts, 2005
Jordan knows how loaded his images are, writing, "I am appalled by these scenes, and yet also drawn into them with awe and fascination. The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity." Beyond the question of consumption, his series also recalls increasingly pressing issues such as homogenization, mechanization, mass production, conservation and even personal versus societal responsibility.
As the photographer himself smartly notes in his statement, "The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences... As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but... my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry." In an age of styrofoam, single-serving packaging and disposable goods, Jordan's photographs feel surprisingly indispensible, not only artifacts of now but propechies of possible tomorrows.
Glass, Seattle 2004