Steinkamp’s organic 3D projections, up close, as constructed in pixels. Image (CC-BY) Mike Linksvayer.

Visualist/VJ and motion graphics artist Annapurna returns to CDM – see her kick-off post in which she talks about her own work. In a medium where too often people are interested only in the newest thing, the latest Vimeo upload, devoid of any history, Annapurna returns to some artists whose greater body of work has contributed to the scene over a period of years. Jennifer Steinkamp’s designs are a reminder of the longevity of digital motion, and the potential for lasting impact. -Ed.

Jennifer Steinkamp is an internationally-exhibited artist and CGI professor who has been taking 3D visuals to new places for decades. Using standard commercial programs such as Maya, After Effects, Director, and Photoshop, Steinkamp’s creations are surprisingly sublime.

For me, she serves as a reminder that software can be used as an artistic tool, and that animation can explore the same concepts of perception as painting or sculpture. She writes:

“I would never tell an artist how they should work. If the software is the inspiration, why not, if the art works? Personally I find it very difficult to reverse engineer art out of some amazing technology. Art can be boring if the emphasis of an artwork is some cool sensor or something. I am interested in space and how our bodies respond to space. Motion and scale through projections in space help emphasize this. There is a certain feeling to space that nothing else has. Typically I start with a place, then I research something about that place. Every time it is different. [When viewers see my work], I hope people feel a slight shift, take a little vacation from their usual perceptions.”

This mindset can best be seen in her animated installation, “Loom”.


As described by the artist:

“Loom consisted of two overlapping video projections; one contained a horizontal pattern, while the other vertical. When combined, the two created a weave. Because there were two projections at opposite angles, the viewer created two shadows that disrupted the projections; one shadow revealed the vertical lines while the other was filled with horizontal lines. The image formed a cube that matched the perspective of the space, which was a deep tunnel. The lines warped with a water like pattern.”


Another of my favorites is “Orbit”, a ten-piece projection that has been installed in different combinations across the country. Maybe I’m just amazed that someone was able to capture the motions of wind-blown flowers in Maya, or maybe it’s the whimsical colors and transitions. Either way, both “Orbit” and “Loom” remind the viewer that the ability to illustrate a single idea with diligent and intricate execution can be extremely engaging.

Creating a meditative moving image that evokes natural beauty from scratch is no small feat. Steinkamp is truly an artist, and one who happens to use animation as her medium. She told me that “I generally don’t draw. I have always believed that expression can exist without the hand.” With the path paved by artists such as Steinkamp, the mediums available to artists for expression are truly expanding.

If you want to see more work by Jennifer Steinkamp, visit her website. She has extensive photo and video documentation of over 80 of her projects, going all the way back to 1989. She has a wide breadth of ideas, and you will find much left to discover beyond what is in this post.