People who think that statistics don't add up to a hill of beans would never have experienced anything quite like the display at the GPO building in Forrest Place.

Grains of rice, representing each person in our time zone, have been piled up in various shapes and sizes to tell statistical stories about the most populous region in the world - our own.

That adds up to 1.54 billion grains of rice totalling 26 tonnes in the Festival theatre-art installation Of All the People in All the World.

Birmingham theatre company Stan's Cafe has painstakingly weighed and counted out the grains so that the production, known more simply as "the rice show", gives emotive weight and physical expression to mountains of apparently boring facts and figures.

Artistic director James Yarker said people's eyes often glazed over when confronted by abstract numbers but the mounds of rice could trigger a strong emotional response from those given a single grain to represent themselves when they walked in. "It is a testament to the power of human empathy," Yarker said. "People just have to see a grain of rice as a person and it triggers these responses. When you see a number embodied this way it is much more direct."

There are similar-sized piles representing the population of Shanghai and the population of Australia.

One visual joke has a grain on either side of a glass panel, signifying the rivalry between Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. A cluster of 12 grains represents the number of people to walk on the moon.

More serious statistics include the thousands of Stolen Generation people, the number of unemployed and the number of asylum seekers.

"In this show you won't see any numbers at all, just rice and descriptions of what the rice represents," Yarker said. "It is provocative without telling you how you would respond."

Of All the People in All the World is free and open daily except Mondays until March 2. The rice will be cleaned and redistributed ethically after the show ends. IT'S IN THE GRAIN 26 The number of tonnes of rice making up the Of All the People in All the World display

The West Australian

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