Ava Burke

Ava is an artist, designer, and writer with a background in American Studies whose work endeavors to investigate the nuances of what it means to act ethically and empathetically within flawed and complex systems. In her spare time she enjoys embroidery and talking to dogs as if they're people.


One Part Per Million

One Part Per Million is a collaborative 1,000,000-stitch needlepointed data sculpture that seeks to raise awareness about toxic chemical exposure at imperceptibly low doses.

One Part Per Million is a collaboratively-produced needlepointed data sculpture that seeks to raise public awareness about the consequences of our reliance on petrochemicals by exploring the impact of one of the most ubiquitous and toxic of these chemicals: vinyl chloride. Vinyl chloride is used to make PVC plastic, an attractive material to designers and consumers because of its durability, versatility, and low cost. Vinyl chloride is a proven human carcinogen and endocrine disrupter that is 1,000 times more toxic than Lead. Because of this toxicity, prolonged exposure to vinyl chloride for industrial workers must not exceed 1 part per million—meaning vinyl chloride must account for less than one one-millionth of any measured volume of air, water, or soil. However, studies show that vinyl chloride persists in causing genetic mutations and cancer even at this low level.

At the intersection of social practice art and grassroots environmental activism, One Part Per Million uses handcraft to visualize an abstract and imperceptibly small number at a human scale. Each participant is given a kit containing materials and instructions to complete a small square of needlepoint; the completed squares come together to form a textural tapestry of 1,000,000 stitches representing the proportion of 1 part per million. The labor-intensive and dialogic process of making One Part Per Million belies the objective smallness of a number like 1ppm by demanding a concrete amount of participants’ time and attention. In this way, the completed piece will serve as a physical record of the project’s mission to impart knowledge, spark conversation, and catalyze awareness into action. The contemplative process of needlepoint creates a unique temporal space for participants to consider how even the most seemingly inconsequential amount of poison can do extensive damage to the environment and human beings.

One Part Per Million is currently accepting participants. Request a free kit of materials at www.onepartpermillion.com/participate.