Consumer Reports: Jenny Odell -ARTnewsApril 15, 2019
Jenny Odell is a multidisciplinary artist and writer based in Oakland, California whose book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy was recently published by Melville House. Odell has been an artist-in-residence at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and shown work at the Marjorie Barrick Museum, Las Vegas; La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris; and Google’s headquarters, among many other venues.
For her Consumer Report, Odell returns to her teaching job at Stanford after two weeks off. She also works on a column for SFMOMA’s Open Space platform about non-native species in her hometown, at times using the app iNaturalist to identify plants. There are also musings on the enduring popularity of The Office with young people, a long digression on a police auction website, and a visit to the rose garden that inspired her most recent book. In addition, Odell consults Twitter to find the correct terminology to describe friendly cats that approach humans for petting and then roll to the ground, “like a blob” (spoiler alert: the term is “social roll”). All that and more, below! —John Chiaverina
Sunday, March 31
I wake up to a text from my partner Joe Veix with a video of a hardcore punk show he had just gone to in Japan. For the last few weeks, because of the time difference, he’s been going to sleep right when I’m waking up.
Today I need to take some photos of “my hill,” an area behind Mountain View Cemetery, for my last piece as columnist-in-residence at SFMOMA’s Open Space. Luckily, it’s a rare day of sun in what’s been an unusually rainy spring. Near my apartment I spot a weird-looking plant, and post a video of it to Twitter with the caption, “can someone tell me wtf this is.” By the time I’ve reached the end of the block, I have the answer, thanks to artist and curator Everest Pipkin. It’s a “fasciated flower,” a mutation where flowers grow in a line instead of from a point.
As is my habit, I stop for a while in the rose garden near my house (the same garden that inspired How to Do Nothing). I’ve brought a book from the Stanford library, Bergson: Thinking Beyond the Human Condition by Keith Ansell-Pearson, and am already in danger of running out of post-it flags. I’m specifically reading this for ideas about time (or duration, as Bergson would put it); perhaps that’s why I subconsciously reserve this book for days when I have almost no schedule.
Now full of ideas about how “time is not space,” I walk further on my deliberately winding route to the cemetery. My piece for Open Space will be called “A non-native hill,” referencing Wendell Berry’s “A Native Hill.” I arrive at my hill and take photos of all of the non-native species: eucalyptus, Tasmanian blackwood, poison hemlock, French broom, etc. For the ones I’m not sure of, I use the iNaturalist app, which lets you…