The first season of PRNT SCRN has officially ended! It’s been such an incredible learning experience. For this episode, I speak with Bay Area-based artist Jenny Odell. Learn more below!
Lastly, and most important, I want to thank the brilliant team over at Art Practical! They’ve given me an awesome home to create the content for PRNT SCRN. Special thanks to Leila Weefur (EIC for Audio/Visual), Marissa Deitz (Editor), Vivian Sming (EIC for online publication), Michele Carlson (Executive Director), Fiona Ball (Managing Editor), and Mia Nakano (Communications Manager) for being such a wonderful team of people to work with.
In an age where we are inundated by a seemingly endless scroll of images and living within an economy that demands an inordinate amount of our attention, it feels necessary to ask what is the value of doing nothing? It is much more evident now than ever before that social media platforms are another tool for advertisers and corporations to learn our desires through likes and clicks encouraging us to stay glued to our screens and monitors. In 2017, Bay Area-based artist Jenny Odell gave a talk at the annual EYEO festival titled “How to do Nothing,” which resulted in a book of the same name. I have been following Odell’s artistic practice and writing since she was in graduate student pursuing her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute. With a background in literature and having taught Internet Art at Stanford University for several years, her wealth of knowledge related to networked culture to free things advertised on Instagram that aren’t actually free, she has an uncanny ability to craft stories emblematic of our digital age. In this episode, The Value of Doing Nothing, I spoke with Odell about exercises in attention, space for refusal, bonding over our experience of an Ellsworth Kelly painting at the SFMOMA, and much more. The irony of Odell’s call to action, being that of doing nothing, leads us to the multitude of ways that stepping back from time to time enables and affords us the opportunity to learn how to observe the world around us, actively listen, and fastidiously mind the details we might normally overlook.
Hear Jenny Odell speak on her new book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy at East Bay Booksellers on Thursday, April 18, 2019, at 7 pm. Read more about the event by clicking here.
For more information on this week’s Screenshot, the app ULTIMEYES, click here.
You can also access all of this season’s episodes here!
Jenny Odell is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer based in Oakland, California. Her 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 her favorite projects, she 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. She is compelled by the ways in which attention (or lack thereof) leads to consequential shifts in perception at the level of the everyday.
Her 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. She’s 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. She teaches internet art and digital/physical design at Stanford since 2013.
Her 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. She is represented by Caroline Eisenmann at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency.