#rp24 speaker Jenny Odell: On practices of care and repair

17.01.2024 - In this interview, bestseller author and artist Jenny Odell shares her perspectives on care work – and calls for more appreciation for people who care.
Jenny Odell trägt ein schwarzes Shirt und dunkle Haare. Im Hintergrund sind Büsche, Bäume und ein Haus zu erkennen.

Jenny Odell is constantly in search of a new perception of the everyday: What's the value of doing nothing in a world that glorifies productivity and busy-ness? How can we revise our conceptions of time and the world to nurture hope and action for a better future?

Jenny is an artist and writer based in Oakland, California. In 2019, she published the New York Times bestseller “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy”, followed by “Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock” in 2023. 

During her stay at Recology SF (also known as the dump), she created “The Bureau of Suspended Objects" and spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects for this project. She has also been an artist in residence at the San Francisco Planning Department and the Internet Archive, for which she has been collecting surrealist “specimens” from ads in 1980s BYTE magazines. From 2013 to 2021, Odell taught digital art at Stanford University. She is an avid and involuntary birdwatcher.

At #rp24, we look forward to Jenny's exciting input and inspiring discussions on the topic of "practices of repair".


#WhoCares: An Interview with Jenny Odell.

The Motto of re:publica 24 is „Who Cares?“. Whom or what are you currently caring about?

I currently care about the same thing that has preoccupied me since I wrote How to Do Nothing, which is the issue of maintenance, coupled with healing and flourishing. My grandmother is currently in hospice, and I have been very moved by the arts of care – really, it seems to be an actual form of art – that her caretakers practise with her.

What do we care about too little as a society?

I think we continue to privilege production over care. I can't imagine that those same care workers that I just mentioned are very well paid. On a larger level, I think we should create more opportunities for social connection and mutual support throughout all stages of life, including and especially for people who are not part of nuclear families.

Is there a person, movement or institution that inspires you in their care for a particular issue? Or maybe a book, article or podcast that inspired you recently?

I am greatly inspired by my friend Angela Garbes' book, Essential Labour. She captures the meaning and creativity that care work can potentially have, while at the same time highlighting how economically and culturally undervalued this work has been in the U.S., specifically in the context of the Filipino diaspora, which includes my family as well. But even for readers outside the U.S., I recommend Essential Labour as a way to appreciate care work while also reimagining what it could be.