Jennifer Steinkamp’s artistic manipulation of electronic media is magical to view. She creates abstract forms and projects them onto spaces small or large.
She creates her art using digital animation, which she downloads onto numerous computers and projectors which are controlled by a master computer that synchronizes them into a unified whole. What is so unique and interesting is how she crops and masks each frame, treating each one as a separate piece of art that she combines to form a whole that is greater than each of its parts. Her works are often further enhanced with musical scores choreographed to the movements of the images.
Viewers become participants in her work as they walk between the projector and the wall; their shadows project upon the wall changing the image, and at the same time the video projects images onto their bodies, which create the possibility for the viewer to become acutely aware of their presence within her artwork.
Her titles are richly expressive as she covers topics ranging from feminism, politics and cultural content, and brings self-awareness and provocative thoughts to the viewer. Her works can be understood as a prism in which we view the condition in which we live, bridging a gap between art and life.
I am particularly drawn to her piece entitled “Dervish,” exhibited in various locations between 2004-2009. Four single trees are projected onto four walls of the room, they have an iridescent glow up against the dark solid back round and take on a magical quality; the branches flow and move captivatingly in a digital soft wind. The trees’ twirling limbs are meant to mimic the bodies of Islam Dervishes, who dance themselves into a trance to rid their souls of any connection with earthly ties, allowing them to connect with the divine. Viewers of this work could also reach a meditative-like state watching the movements of the iridescent tree limbs waving gracefully in a visual wind.
There is juxtaposition between the rigid rooted trunks and the flowing, soft, swirling branches; this interplay could be interpreted as the divine’s magical quality in the branches as they wave against the motionless, earthly trunks.
I find Steinkamp’s work magical and thought provoking, she successfully uses digital media to express unique artistic creations for viewers to participate in and possibly be transformed in some way.
1 Christopher Miles, “Brightness Falls,” Art in America 95, no. 3 (March 2007): 128-133.
2 Robert Wedemeyer, Dervish, Jennifer Steinkamp’s web page, 2004, 05, http://
jsteinkamp.com/html/body_lenmannmaupin.htm., 19 April 2010.