Jenny Odell, "964 Round Parts of Wastewater Treatment Plants", 2013,  from the series "Satellite Collections", archival pigment print, 36x36”

Jenny Odell, “964 Round Parts of Wastewater Treatment Plants”, 2013, from the series “Satellite Collections”, archival pigment print, 36×36”

Jenny Odell


You can see from pole to pole and across oceans and continents and you can watch it turn and there’s no strings holding it up, and it’s moving in a blackness that is almost beyond conception.

-Eugene Cernan, an astronaut on the Apollo 17, on seeing the Earth from space

In all of these prints, I collect things that I’ve cut out from Google Satellite View– parking lots, silos, landfills, waste ponds. The view from a satellite is not a human one, nor is it one we were ever really meant to see. But it is precisely from this inhuman point of view that we are able to read our own humanity, in all of its tiny, repetitive marks upon the face of the earth. From this view, the lines that make up basketball courts and the scattered blue rectangles of swimming pools become like hieroglyphs that say: people were here.

The alienation provided by the satellite perspective reveals the things we take for granted to be strange, even absurd. Banal structures and locations can appear fantastical and newly intricate. Directing curiosity toward our own inimitably human landscape, we may find that those things that are most recognizably human (a tangle of carefully engineered water slides, for example) are also the most bizarre, the most unlikely, the most fragile.

JENNY ODELL is a Bay Area native/captive with an MFA in Design and Technology at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she was awarded a graduate fellowship and honored as the school’s top design graduate of 2010. Prior to her masters, Odell received a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley. Odell mines imagery from online environments, most typically Google Maps, in an attempt to create candid portraits or to insist on the material nature of our modern networked existence. Because her practice exists at the intersection of research and aesthetics, she have often been compared to a natural scientist (specifically, a lepidopterist).
Odell’s work has made its way into the Google Headquarters, Les Rencontres D’Arles, Arts Santa Monica, Fotomuseum Antwerpen, the Yerba Buena Art Center, and the Made in NY Media Center. It has also turned up in TIME Magazine’s LightBox, The Atlantic, The Economist, WIRED, KQED, and the NPR Picture Show. She teaches at Stanford and the San Francisco Art Institute and would spend 80% of her life in a library if she could. Her series Satellite Collections can be found at 20×

Odell self-published a book of The Satellite Collections (7″x7″, softcover, full color, 34 pages) which includes all of the Satellite Collections and an original essay. Other books include I Hate to Part With It: Craigslist Farewells (softcover, full color, 78 pages), and Travel by Approximation: A Virtual Roadtrip (hardcover, full cover, 272 pages) which are distributed by the artist
Upcoming exhibitions include Surveillance.02 at East Wing Gallery in Dubai. She will be an artist-in-residence at Recology in San Francisco in the summer 2015 and is currently the first net artist-in-residence at the New York Public Library in conjunction with Electric Objects.