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Artist rearranges the world with objects she mines from Google Maps

San Francisco artist Jenny Odell uses secondhand imagery from the internet to create otherworldly art pieces. Video by Joel Wanek and Kristin Farr, KQED Art School

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 it involves scouring the internet for images on Google Maps, YouTube, Yelp or Craigslist, then making large composites from the photographs and videos she collects.

Odell first had an epiphany about the artistic possibilities of these everyday web-based tools when she left Berkeley, California, and moved to San Fransisco for graduate school.

“I was getting lost a lot and spending a lot of time on Google Maps trying to figure out my environment,” Odell said. “Pretty soon, I realized that Google Maps could be used for artistic purposes as well as practical ones.”

Container ships, water slides, waste-water treatment facilities, electrical power lines and her own trash are just some of the objects she has cataloged 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.

Local Beat is a bi-weekly series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

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