I Am a Grain of Rice

Enter the installation Of All the People in All the World and you’re given one small grain of rice. That grain is you.

Wander among the mounds of rice and you see truths about the millions and billions that aren’t you: the people who will be born or will die today, child soldiers, people who have been to outer space, and the number of people who will visit a McDonald’s today.

Juxtapositions are deliberately provocative: applicants to a reality TV show adjacent to a smaller pile representing college students training to be science teachers; people who choose to live in gated communities and people in prisons; numbers of doctors and numbers of soldiers; the world’s refugees and the world’s millionaires. A single rice grain represents Barack Obama and it’s encircled by the entire population of the United States. Each mound of rice tells its own story, but it is given context by those that surround it.

Rice is a most apt medium to illustrate global concerns. It grows everywhere in the world except Antarctica, feeding two-thirds of the planet daily. Health, wealth, and even governments rise and fall with rice.

The show is a deceptively simple way to make abstract statistics concrete and accessible. Global issues become personal when we both shrink and expand to a grain of rice.

Of All the People in All the World is a traveling exhibition that has made a few swings through the U.S., most recently at the Kennedy Center in November. The show adapts to each location, tailoring statistics and topics to the setting and covering current events. It’s staged by Stan’s Café, a theater group from Birmingham, England that seeks commissions from universities, foundations, and other institutions to bring it to more audiences.

You can see outtakes from past installations at the Of All the People in All the World flickr set.
Visit the Statistics Centre at Stan’s Cafe for information, tour updates, and to suggest your own data set.

At the end of each installation, the rice is returned to the food chain, usually through donations to local food banks. Including you.

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One Response to I Am a Grain of Rice

  1. Monet says:

    How interesting! What a great way to get us to stop and consider the vast world we live in. We get so caught up in superficial and meaningless things (such as status, celebrity, ect) and we forget that we are all human in need of the same basic things. Thank you for sharing this with me. You always bring me such great stuff!

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