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Mining the Internet with Jenny Odell

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Ask Bay Area native Jenny Odell to describe her artistic practice and she just might tell you her work is more akin to a scientist or archivist. Typically her work involves scouring the internet for images on Google Maps, YouTube, Yelp or Craigslist, then making large composites from the photographs and video she collects.

77 Salt and Waste Ponds
77 Salt and Waste Ponds (Jenny Odell)

Container ships, water slides, wastewater treatment facilities, electrical power lines, and her own trash are just some of the objects she has catalogued and rearranged in her artwork. All of this is an effort to try and make sense out of the systems and structures that she moves past and uses everyday.

In this episode of Art School, we hang out with Odell in her apartment in San Francisco's Mission District and get a glimpse of her process of gathering images and crafting them into grids and other forms.

Jenny Odell navigating Google Maps
Jenny Odell navigating Google Maps (Joel Wanek)

One of her largest projects resulted in the book Travel By Approximation, which is the documentation of a virtual road trip she took by "traveling" and "sightseeing" through Google Maps. Another series of works she introduces us to is Satellite Collections that presents common objects and structures as strange and otherwordly.

We get a closer, in-depth look at Odell's practice in a second video below. Follow along as she walks us through the process used to make her piece Garbage Selfie, the product of photographing her trash for twenty-one days!


In the demo above Odell uses the application Adobe Photoshop to cut out and construct her selfie. But, there are a handful of software options you can use if you don't own that particular program. One example is GIMP which is a free desktop application that is strikingly similar to Photoshop. Another powerful option is Pixlr. Pixlr is a feature-rich program which is also free and online - no download needed! Check out our series of Pixlr explainers to get up to speed and making your own Garbage Selfie in no time.

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