All the People in San Quentin, 46"x38" Archival Inkjet Print, 2012

All the People in Centinela Federal Prison, 64"x28" Archival Inkjet Print, 2012

All of the People on Google Earth
by Jenny Odell

The Tipton Three Exhibition Space is pleased to have commissioned two works by California artist Jenny Odell. Both works, "All the People in San Quentin" and "All the People in Centinela Federal Prison", reflect on the modes of representation of individual bodies within the context of the prison. Odell's work appropriates various google satellite photographs of prisons located in the United States and cals into question our dominant ways of seeing, and ultimately knowing, the human subject. Her prints can be found in the Walter Benjamin Memorial Gallery on the second floor of the main exhibition space.

Artist Statement

"Thus Google Earth's allure derives not only from its capacity for high-resolution ... but also from high-dissolution."(Paul Kingsbury and John Paul Jones III, "Walter Benjamin's Dionysian Adventures on Google Earth")

All the People on Google Earth is an ongoing series of modified snapshots of crowds I find on Google Earth, where everything but the people (and their attendant blankets, umbrellas, dogs, etc.) has been removed. Given the current limitations of resolution on Google Earth, I can only use imagery from the handful of places where angled imagery is available at the most zoomed-in level. The angle reveals each person's shadow, which is often the only thing that identifies a particular shape as a person at all. Occasionally we may see a leg thrust out in the act of walking; there are suggestions of tennis-playing movements. Otherwise the people exist on the very limit of the recognizable, dissolved into pixels.

In these two pieces (All the People in San Quentin and All the People in Centinela Federal Prison), the perspective of the satellite allows us to literally see over the walls of the prison at the same time that such a view feels uncomfortably related to surveillance. The formations of people -- in this case, either prisoners or guards -- take on added meaning, in that they are products of physical confinement by force rather than a matter of chance (e.g. happening to be somewhere at the time the camera passed over, as is the case with parks and other crowded areas). The appearance of these people in these particular geographical locations on Google Satellite creates an incidental, and thus much more real-seeming, concrete picture of incarceration. From this view prison becomes not an abstract hole into which people disappear as statistics, but a physically real, organized space inside which people are partitioned into groups and different colored uniforms.

Jenny Odell is a Bay Area native who makes art from Google satellite imagery. (Portentiously, Odell was born not 6 miles from where the Google Headquarters would eventually be.) Her work attempts to catalog the specificity and fragility of human existence, either through collections of everyday structures like swimming pools, parking lots, and billboards, or by isolating crowds on Google Earth from their surroundings. Odell's work has been featured at the Google Headquarters and Les Rencontres D'Arles in France, as well as on the NPR Picture Show, Rhizome, Gizmodo, ESPN Magazine, Die Zeit, NEON Magazine, and Elephant Magazine. You can view more of Jenny Odell's work at her own website at and you can follow her on twitter at @the_jennitaur.