jenny odell
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Satellite Collections
digital prints
2009-2011

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.

137 Landmarks (click here for key)

206 Circular Farms

Cargo Trains

100 Container Ships

Shipping Containers

100 Bulk Carriers



964 Round Parts of Wastewater Treatment Plants

97 Nuclear Cooling Towers

104 Airplanes

10 Waterslide Configurations

120 Stadiums

77 Waste and Salt Ponds

 

39 Landfills


125 Swimming Pools


Every Outdoor Basketball Court in Manhattan


1,378 Grain Silos, Water Towers, and Other Cylindrical-Industrial Buildings


144 Empty Parking Lots


195 Yachts, Barges, Cargo Lines, Tankers and Other Ships

81 Miles of the Great Salt Lake
(each square representes exactly one mile)

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Signs of Life
digital prints
2012

Signs of Life is, on the one hand, a study in the structures of advertising and business. This means both the conceptual structures as well as the often very intricate systems of beams and lattices that hold up billboards, the varying proportions of Burger King and Shell signs across the country, and the shades of stucco in our giant compound shopping center signs. This structuring is often overlooked, testament to the signs' effectiveness at delivering messages straight into our consciousness. But underneath this effectiveness is hard work and maintenance. A long, thin platform runs the length of each billboard-- a reminder of the occasional person who will peel down this slogan and put up the next one.

More generally, though, Signs of Life is a record of messages from humanity to itself. It reflects a collective preoccupation with movies, cell phones, lotteries, alcohol, sports, amusement parks, and "new lower rates" of all kinds-- but also marriage counseling, weight loss, debt management, rehab, and adult education. The population pictured falls for everything huge and free (a "Splash of Cash", a dangled "MEGA MILLIONS") at the same time that it strives to turn its life around once and for all. It sprawls restlessly across the country, trailed by giant yellow M's, red targets, chevrons: curious letters in the alphabet of human existence.

202 Billboard Structures

billboards

153 Signs for Shopping Centers and Entertainment Complexes
shopping centers

295 Roadside Signs
roadside signs


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