This is a fascinating discussion with author and artist Jenny Odell. I really enjoyed her new book, How To Do Nothing, and Jenny talks eloquently here about reclaiming one’s inner space in a world constantly making demands on our point of focus. She definitely has a different way of looking at things that is both refreshing and thought provoking.
In Her Own Words…
I am an multi-disciplinary artist and writer based in Oakland, California. My work generally involves acts of close observation, whether it’s birdwatching, collecting screen shots, or trying to parse bizarre forms of e-commerce. In one of my favorite projects, I created The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a searchable online archive of 200 objects salvaged from the San Francisco dump, each with photographs and painstaking research into its material, corporate, and manufacturing histories. I am compelled by the ways in which attention (or lack thereof) leads to consequential shifts in perception at the level of the everyday.
My visual work has been exhibited at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, the New York Public Library, Ever Gold Projects, the Marjorie Barrick Museum (Las Vegas), Les Rencontres D’Arles, Fotomuseum Antwerpen, Fotomuseum Winterthur, La Gaîté Lyrique (Paris), the Lishui Photography Festival (China), the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, apexart (NY), East Wing (Dubai), and the Google headquarters. I’ve been an artist in residence at Recology SF (the dump), the San Francisco Planning Department, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Palo Alto Art Center, Facebook, and the Internet Archive. I have taught internet art and digital/physical design at Stanford since 2013.
My writing has appeared in the New York Times, SFMOMA’s Open Space, McSweeney’s, The Creative Independent, Sierra Magazine, Topic, and Real Future. My book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, was recently published by Melville House. I am represented by Caroline Eisenmann at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency.
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