Visiting Artist Talk: Jenny Odell: notes


More quick notes, this time from last week’s excellent presentation by  Jenny Odell. Tonight at seven we will be hosting the multidisciplinary L.A. artist Emily Mast.

  • trash, “It’s what I’m interested in right now.”
  • at first, a proclivity for collecting. Later, an interest in infrastructure and networks.
  • a childhood fascination with Narnia, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and other depictions of people being altered and transported. Those changes feel (quote) “magical.” They give us a new perspective on familiar scenery. She appreciates the fact that the children in C.S. Lewis’ stories had to pass through coats to reach the otherworld. She shows us a still of the tiny Honey boy inside his hoop of breakfast cereal.
  • studying literature at university, she wrote about Emily Dickinson’s fascicle 14, c. 1862 (the fascicles are small books the poet made of her poems, arranging them in groups and sewing the pages together by hand). Half of the poems in 14 are poems from Dickinson’s earlier practice, said Odell, and the other half come from the later practice. The latter ones have a more “cosmic perspective.” Again our attention is drawn to the encounter between everyday viewpoints and the super-perspective of the “magical.”
  • studying art: she recreated shots from Google Street View by deliberately imitating the incidental poses of people caught by the Google camera. More difficult than it looks, she said. The photographer had to stand in the middle of the street. In one of the photographs she had to jump so that the top of her head was visible behind the high roof of a van.
  • speaking about Google Maps’ overhead satellite viewpoint: “Things look specifically human when you see them from a nonhuman perspective.”
  • cataloguing, a reaction to an abundance of imagery.
  • looking at satellite view, you realize how much infrastructure a city requires. Infrastructure is hidden from us in two ways: 1. actually hidden, e.g., underwater cables; 2. hidden in plain sight, e.g., overhead power lines.
  • Once, she coupled a gallery show with a tour of a wastewater treatment plant. Tour was unexpectedly popular. Had to schedule more tours.
  • infrastructure is part of the “peripheral landscapes” of cities – e.g., the pipe that runs from San Francisco to Yosemite, collecting the water that generates power for the public transport system. She toured the length of the pipe. (Power Trip) Now, riding on the Muni, she always thinks of the far-away pipe running down the side of a cliff in the Sierra Nevada.  The pipe is also part of the journey.
  • Plastic Bag, by Ramin Bahrani. Mardi Gras: Made in China, by David Redmon.
  • Her dilemma: how do you represent near and far, and present and unpresent, in the same space? (The end credits of Mardi Gras, are they one answer?)
  • a residency at the San Francisco dump. Access to a heap of thrown-away objects: “the pile.” During her residency she visited Walmart with her mother and the  display of new objects “looked like the dump” – everything was “imminent trash.”
  • every object is limited edition. The circumstances that brought it to its exact existence are highly unstable. “Every object is already suspended: they’re suspended wherever they are” … “we’re just seeing them on different points on the timeline.” Researching a discarded & anonymous stuffed dog from The Pile, she is surprised to discover a forgotten 1950s TV celebrity, Morgan the Basset Hound.
  • Ultimately she would like people to come out of her shows into the everyday world & be intrigued by things they hadn’t considered before.

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