Exploring Digital Ephemera with Jenny Odell

Internet wormholes are digital artist Jenny Odell’s specialty. Whether she’s digging for “surreal specimens” from ‘80s animations or creating collages from satellite imagery, she finds the beauty in cast-off digital ephemera. A prime example: her Satellite Collection prints, which she created with the support of 52 backers on Kickstarter earlier this year. Here, she shares highlights from her online explorations.

681 Observatory Domes, Telescopes, and Other Structures for Long Range Observation by Jenny Odell

681 Observatory Domes, Telescopes, and Other Structures for Long Range Observation by Jenny Odell

Five things you can see from the sky

1. LUECKE, Smithville, TX

This giant signature belongs to Jimmie Luecke, a Texas oil millionaire who bulldozed his name into his ranch in the 1990s. NASA now uses it to calibrate their instruments!

2. HACK, Menlo Park, CA

The main quad at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park reads “HACK” from above. I once ate lunch near the “H.” 

3. Ni pena, ni miedo, Atacama Desert, Chile

This poem is by Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, who also wrote poems in the sky above New York City using airplanes. He started imagining “writing poems in the sky, on the faces of cliffs, in the desert” during Augusto Pinochet’s regime.

4. HAMAD (removed)

This is the signature of an Arab sheikh who is also incidentally responsible for the world’s largest truck. It has since been mysteriously removed, with one of the sheikh’s associates saying simply, "we deleted it.” 

5. KFC logo (removed)

For many years, in a town close to Area 51, there was a giant KFC logo made up of tens of thousands of square plastic tiles. The company referred to it in a press release as the world’s first "astrovertisement.” When it disappeared, I wrote an elegy for it. 


Five links I Like

Aram Bartholl, Map
It’s pretty obvious why I like this.

Daniel Kolitz, The Datadrive
Imagine: Mark Zuckerberg has fled Facebook and has been replaced by Texas mattress tycoon Buck Calhoun!

This Google Chrome extension… 
… that makes each new tab open to a random view from Google Earth. Very distracting! In a good way?

Anthony Antonellis, Facebook Bliss
So real.

Sara Hendren, “Design for Know-Nothings, Dilettantes, and Melancholy Interlopers”
I saw this talk last year and immediately assigned it to my design students; it’s especially good for anyone who’s ever had a hard time explaining to people what it is that they do.

This piece originally appeared in our Handpicked Happening newsletter, where Kickstarter creators share their recommendations for things to read, watch, and listen to. 

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