ArtCenter College of Design | Pasadena, California | Learn to Create. Influence Change.

Jennifer Steinkamp

Master of Fine Arts '91

Jennifer Steinkamp is an installation artist who works with video projection and new media, while exploring ideas about architectural space, motion and perception. Her animated installations have been in dozens of solo exhibitions, including Lehmann Maupin, New York; ACME, Los Angeles; the Santa Monica Museum of Art; Albright-Knox Gallery, New York; Caltech's Athenaeum, Pasadena; and greengrassi, London. Additionally, Steinkamp has been included in a screening at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, and her work was featured as part of U2's PopMart tour in 1997 and their Elevation tour in 2001. In 2008, Steinkamp was selected as the United States artist representative in the 11th International Cairo Biennale.

Art Center: How has your creative process evolved since attending Art Center, and what are some things that remain constant?
Jennifer Steinkamp:
In 1989, while an undergraduate at Art Center, I started an artwork where I projected computer animations onto the windows of Bliss, a house in Pasadena, and a storefront at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Projection has since become the foundation for all of my work. Over the years, I have come to understand what it can mean to transform architectural space with light and sound. Each time I create an installation, I learn a little more about each viewer's experience and perception. An early work where I began to encounter some of these ideas was a site-specific installation that I created for FOODHOUSE in Santa Monica back in 1993. In this piece, I projected an abstract, river-like animation onto the floor that destabilized the viewer's relationship to the space and seemed to breathe as it traversed between a concave and convex surface. People actually felt seasick, and I thought it was incredible that a projected animation could provoke such intense spatial transformations and physical sensations.

AC: How has changing technology impacted the way you work?
In 1982 I enrolled in a class at Caltech where instructor Gene Youngblood introduced us to the pioneers of computer animation, early abstract animation and Structuralist cinema. He exposed us to imagery I had never seen before, particularly digital images in motion, which was very new at the time. This really struck me. I dropped out of school and started working in the entertainment industry to learn computer animation on the job. At the time, this was the best way to learn, as schools often did not have the means or even the curriculum to support this field of study. Of course, as time passed, computing power became cheaper, more accessible and faster. When I first started making media-based art, it would cost more than $60,000 to set up a studio. Today a few thousand dollars will suffice. This is an amazing change. Technology sets a rapid pace and the constant change in tools, the pervasive information exchange and the budgets have all combined to affect my work over the years. Perhaps the most significant change has been the ease of use. As an artist I am no longer bound to technological issues, and I am free to consider the more interesting aspects of art-making-the art itself.

AC: What questions or challenges will artists and designers be dealing with in the future?
I'll give you a real sci-fi response: Artists will be dealing with biological issues and actually creating life forms. It's already happening to a small degree and this will occur more. There are all sorts of ethical Frankenstein issues to confront, not to mention the question, “What is art?” This biological trend is going to completely pass me over because there is no way I'm going to create something like a mouse with a human ear growing on it. I wonder where Art Center will locate the new genetic manipulation lab in 10 years? For now, technically I see my work moving toward real-time computing; I will be making art that can generate itself continually as if it has a simulated life of its own.

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