Jakob Kudsk Steensen Interview: Our Middle Existence

Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, who has been dubbed a ‘digital gardener’, is one to watch. We met the rising star in his studio in New York to talk about his enchanting virtual reality and video installations, which invite people to enter futuristic simulations of ecosystems.

“All my work is connected by an interest in landscapes and how we can use technology to experience them in new ways,” Steensen says, adding that he is particularly interested in the smaller ecosystems “in different parts of the world that are changing because of a general climate change.” In these places, specialized biologists research one specific thing, and Kudsk Steensen spends 3-6 months in a given landscape, talking to them, taking photographs, and collecting soil, leaves etc. He then returns to his studio where he creates digital creatures and locations based on his expedition: “I transform it a bit, and enable new ways of sensing and perceiving, for example, the leaf of a tree. So a leaf would be on a gigantic scale, and the veins are like two meters wide, and you can see everything pulsating, you can touch it and move around it.” A lot of the 3D-models – the “virtual sculptures” – are created in VR, which Kudsk Steensen then places in virtual landscapes, each of which is designed in a computer game engine. Virtual reality, he feels, presents you with the opportunity to “literally be inside the soil of the ground.”

Though the landscape lives digitally, Kudsk Steensen always adapts the piece to the architecture of the exhibition, because it creates a new world: “It’s like a friction space between this cultivated museum space and the remote ecosystem that I had to go to… and then the exhibition itself is this fractured space or this middle existence that I think we all live in right now.” It is precisely this meeting point, this “middle existence”, which makes up our perception of reality, that Kudsk Steensen seeks to play with.

Jakob Kudsk Steensen (b. 1987) is a Danish artist and art director based in New York. Kudsk Steensen is concerned with how imagination, technology and ecology intertwine, and he develops VR and installations, which enables visitors to enter new ecological realities. For his work, he collects organic material, which is then digitized and converted into digital worlds with 3D scanners, photogrammetry, satellite data and computer game software. Kudsk Steensen has exhibited internationally at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Serpentine Galleries Marathon in London, MAXXI Rome, Frieze London, Zabludowicz Collection in London and many more. For more see: https://jakobsteensen.squarespace.com/

Jakob Kudsk Steensen was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at his studio in Newark, New York in April 2019.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Cover photo: Still from ‘Re-Animated. Mating Call’, 2018 by Jakob Kudsk Steensen
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea fonden

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