While Jennifer Steinkamp’s latest show is now open at Lehmann Maupin’s Hong Kong location, the video artist drew inspiration for the work a little closer to home, after noticing tumbleweeds during strolls around her Los Angeles neighborhood. In the gallery’s main exhibition space, Steinkamp presents Diaspore, a techno-riff on the displacement of humans and land, via two mural-sized films that feature an animated tangle of branches, berries, and other foliage.
The death and politics inherent in the notion of diaspora represent a break for the artist. For the past two decades Steinkamp’s hypnotic 3-D animations—of trees, rocks, abstract shapes, even pearl strands—have typically added layers of cheer to spaces as disparate as Las Vegas’s Fremont Street Experience to the rotunda at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (which will reinstall her Loop projection, last displayed in 2000, this March).
Inside the gallery’s smaller space Steinkamp has installed Bouquet, an enchanting filmic arrangement of tree limbs—instead of flowers—that twist and turn in the middle of the wall, as it’s been doing for the past year at the American Consulate building in Guangzhou. Similar in aesthetic to Diaspore, Bouquet was designed to examine the chaotic merger of China's natural and human-built environments. The consulate, says Steinkamp, "is a funny place because you can go there to renew your passport or to adopt a baby from China. There’s actually a line you queue up in [for the latter]." In this instance, life imitates the art: one adoption—or spring awakening—at a time.