On Marisa Olson

Posted by | George William Price | Posted on | April 15, 2015

Tomorrow Marisa Olson will be joining us at the Gene Siskel Film Center to present a selection of her works from the past decade. Olivia Junell, dual degree graduate student in art history and arts administration, blogs for us about Olson’s exploration of technology–it’s precariousness and codependency–within our contemporary culture. Marisa Olson: In Praise of Garbage takes place April 16, 6.00pm.

Marisa Olson, Assisted Living. Courtesy of the artist

Marisa Olson, Assisted Living. Courtesy of the artist

From the telegraph to television, new technologies always bring new concerns, with the onset of the internet being the most dramatic example of our generation.  We’re concerned with it weakening human relations, with the very real feeling of being buried in information, with the possibility of losing our own original voice. Communication often becomes a collage of other people’s (or machine’s?) content. With the amount of information we take in, its easy fall into a dialogue of recycled and rearranged quotations, images, and sound bites from the internet. Last night my best friend sent me a text string of Beyonce dancing, two gifs of an anonymous kid dancing, and a photo of her cat. Is that a real communication between us, or an impulsive gesture that essentially says nothing?

Marisa Olson takes what often feels like a saturated, impersonal world mediated by new releases of endless content and technology, and makes it personal. In part this is due to her skill at sorting through the vast fog of information resources, deploying a careful selection of references from pop culture, media culture, and her own life. However, instead of imparting personal information, opinions, and personality through collaged content and various technologies the way most of us do, Olson often reverses the formula, looking at technology, the internet, and popular culture through her personality. In Monitor Tracings, Olson extracts images of outdated technology that she personally chooses to recall from their archived place on the internet. O.Yeah.I.Love.You.Baby shows us the popularity of certain words in pop music through the lens of Olson’s own mp3 collection. And her most recent work (according to her website), Star Trek TNG/TLG looks at narratives around searching for information, defunct technology, and science fiction, through the recreation of a gift given to her by her mother.

The result is a glimpse at the breakdowns that occur when communicating through and across media systems. This breakdown is aptly extended to our own access to her work – just looking online at and for her work, the precariousness of technology (see: Golden Oldies) carries through incidentally. Nasty Nets has been hacked, the Break-UpAlbum (Demo) is no longer available on YouTube, and Troy’s (Non)Mixtape of Love mp3 results in an error message stating that I “don’t have permission to access.” As the internet becomes increasingly integrated in our lives, will online communication become as viable and informative as in person communication? In many cases, perhaps. In this case though, it’s still necessary to show up in person to get the full story.

Marisa Olson will give a talk and screen selections of her works from the past 10 years April 16, 2015.


Olivia Junell is currently pursuing a dual Masters degree at the School of the Art Institute Chicago and works as the Director of Community Interaction at Experimental Sound Studio. Since moving to Chicago from Texas in 2013 she has enthusiastically thrown herself into the city’s arts scene, working with organizations including the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Roger Brown Study Collection, and High Concept Laboratories as well as pursuing a wide range of independent curatorial and programming projects. Current interests include arts organizational structures and processes of documentation, particularly within untraditional or performance based practices.

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