Jennifer Wen Ma is a Chinese interdisciplinary, multimedia video artist, who splits her time between New York and Beijing. Her family came to the U.S. in 1986, and in 1999 she earned her M.F.A. from Pratt Institute. She worked in the New York studio of Cai Guo-Qiang, known for his pyrotechnic works.
Ma was the youngest of seven artists and designers to produce the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. For this immense project Ma had designed an abstract ink painting that was to appear on a giant LED scroll and to be unfurled in centerfield. Although her video was not used, it helped to secure a role for ink painting in the opening ceremony. A few days before the opening ceremony, Ma created a smoke-cloud installation over Tiananmen Square featuring the mythical Monkey King as a response to the inequalities she saw when working for the Olympics.
In 2009, Ma used ink painting again in her video “Brain Storm” a meditative piece that opens with a wash of ink spreading across the screen. The ink lines slowly transform into a horse and a man walking. For her, video was the perfect format for making a moving scroll. “Chinese scrolls are really multi-perspective. The idea of traveling through time is embedded in the viewing of landscape.”
Ma’s public works include an installation for a marching band and the interactive “Bending the Arc” to honor Martin Luther King. Ma was the librettist, visual designer, and director of the award-winning, multi-cultural, installation opera “Paradise Interrupted” performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2015.