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Tangentially Speaking

466 – Jenny Odell (Artist and Author of How to Do Nothing)

By March 22, 2021April 8th, 20212 Comments

Jenny is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer based in Oakland, California, whose work generally involves acts of close observation, whether it’s birdwatching, collecting screen shots, or trying to parse bizarre forms of e-commerce. Her work has been exhibited at many prestigious museums and galleries, and she was the artist in residence at the San Francisco dump!

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Believer, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, SFMOMA’s Open Space, The Creative Independent, and Sierra Magazine. Her NYT bestselling book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, was published by Melville House in 2019.

Jenny, on Twitter, and Instagram.

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Intro music: “Brightside of the Sun,” by Basin and Range;“Mouhamadou Bamba,” by Orchestra Baobab; “Smoke Alarm,” by Carsie Blanton.


  • David says:

    My view:

    All there ever is, was, and will be, is the present.

    All thought of the future and the past occur in the present

  • There was a Mexican poet named Renato Leduc whose life was completely amazing and worth to be made into a movie –fought in the Revolution as a teenager, traveled to Paris during WWII where he met Picasso and many bohemian artists, returned to Mexico married to Leonora Carrington just so she could escape Europe, and that’s just covering his thirties.

    When he was studying law someone dared him to write a poem using the word ‘Tiempo’ (time) and he lost the bet because that is one of the few words in Spanish that don’t rhyme with anything. Hurt in his pride he kept at it and finally managed to write the poem, which eventually became a very popular song in Mexico and Latin America.

    Anyway, your conversation with Jenny reminded me of that poem, which is about love but also about yearning, above all, for the ‘unfair joy of losing time’ (la dicha inicua de perder el tiempo); something I think often of nowadays seeing how our society and technology is driving us to a world in which offices will be obsolete, because the workspace will be inside our heads –a virtual environment designed with everything, except a punching clock…

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