Tina Kim Gallery is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition of Jennifer Tee (b. 1973, Arnhem), Ancestral Beginnings, Sessile Beings. Following her recent exhibition at Kunstinstituut Melly co-produced with Secession, this major New York debut represents an opportunity to encounter Tee’s wide-ranging practice that comprises research, performance, installation, textiles, collage, and sculpture.

Jennifer Tee is known for her experimental, interdisciplinary practice, unencumbered by delineations in form. But it is through traversing various media and using versatile approaches that Tee examines and questions the cultural, psychological, and socio-political resonances in materiality as they relate to the history of migration and colonialism. Inherent to these considerations is the inseparable relationship between spirit and matter, evoking André Breton’s phrase “the soul in limbo” from his 1928 surrealist novel Nadja.

This phrase serves as the raison d’etre for Tee’s works – as it encompasses the idea of what is alive, but restless, caught in an in-between, unnamable space. While this notion allows one to contemplate cross-cultural identity, loss of language, tradition, and the movement of natural commodities, it also allows one to go beyond – to spiritual realms – refusing essentialization. Tee’s works equally honor the lineage of modernists such as Hilma af Klint, where art and abstraction were a vehicle for occultism, as well as her Chinese-Indonesian and Dutch ancestry.

Ancestral Beginnings, Sessile Beings will showcase multiple series of works such as hand-knit floor pieces, ceramics, and pineapple cloth tapestries. But the magnum opus of the exhibition are her Tampan Tulips, which are part of a seasonal serial work Tee has developed for close to a decade. These series of collages are made from pressed tulip petals, with motifs taken from the Tampan, square-shaped woven cloths that were exchanged during important rites of passage.

Tampan are found in the Lampung region of southern Sumatra, a crucial trade route since antiquity, a crossroads of cultures and traditions. Predominantly featuring ships with a mast that often branches out into a tree of life, the tampan is evocative of human souls continuing onto new lives. The reference to migration is of particular interest to Tee, as her father migrated with his parents and sister to the Netherlands from Indonesia on a ship in the 1950s. The geometric and mirrored patterns visualize the orders of society as well as the universe and are seen as portals leading from the material to the spiritual world.

For Tee, the conceptual crux of the Tampan series is based on a living, performative cycle that is directed and guided by the environment. Each year, she awaits the tulip harvest, whose yield determines her work. While collages with pressed tulip petals are part of this rhythm, also essential are the piezographies, which are scans of the petal collages. These piezographies for Tee are like x-rays of a body – or a picture of one’s young self memorialized– while the archive tulip petal collage represents the body that is alive and aging. The piezography as a document is further heightened by Tee’s interest and research in systems of language such as hieroglyphics, ancient philosophies, and ethnography. The piezography is akin to messages from another world.

Placed in an environment of ceramic domes, knitted floor pieces, and pineapple cloth tapestries, all of Tee’s works point toward the vulnerable relationship between nature and culture, language and perception, beauty and destruction, while exploring how all of these ideas play into questions of land rights, nationality, belonging, and ecology. Her quixotic environments can often be activated, engendering their own rituals. Real worlds and a world in calling thus flow together, both physically and mentally, becoming an important metaphorical binding thread. Therefore, while Tee evokes ideas of migration, Ancestral Beginnings, Sessile Beings exceeds that very notion as she longs to return to or redefine humanity’s place in our natural environment and the cosmos. To behave more like sessile beings, immovable, embedded within ecological time.

On the occasion of Jennifer Tee’s opening reception, we welcome poet Lara Mimosa Montes to activate Tee’s floorpiece, Crystalline floorpiece / Sanguine Sea. The reading performance is part of Tee’s curated eco-stacks poetry reading, and will take place at 7 PM on Thursday, February 15, 2024. The schedule of next readings that will take place during the exhibition with additional readers is forthcoming.

Jennifer Tee (b. 1973, Arnhem) lives and works in Amsterdam NL. She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Art and Design, Amsterdam; at Sandberg Institute (MFA), Amsterdam; at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. She was a resident artist at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam and ISCP, New York US. She was awarded among others the Amsterdam Prize for the Arts, AFK, Amsterdam NL (2020); Cobra Art Prize Amstelveen, Cobra Museum of Modern Art together with the City of Amstelveen NL (2015); Uriot-prijs, Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam NL (2000 & 2001); Prix de Rome, Amsterdam NL (1999); GRA-award for fine arts, Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam NL (1998).

Still Shifting, Mother Field, Kunstinstituut Melly 2023 co-produced with Secession, AT, 2022, DRIFT, multilingual performance choreography, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam NL (2020); Ether Plane ~ Material Plane, ISCP, New York US (2018); Let it Come Down, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn DE and Camden Arts Centre, London UK (2017); Structures of Recollection and Perseverance, Kunstraum, London UK (2017); Tulip Palepai, navigating the River of the World, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam NL (2017); The Soul in Limbo, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen NL (2016); Indigo Waves and Other Stories, Gropius Bau, Berlin, DE 2023, We, on the Rising Wave, Busan Biennale 2022, Busan KO (2022); A Lasting Truth Is Change, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven NL (2022); Moving StoriesBritta Rettberg, München DE (2022); The Botanical Revolution, Centraal Museum Utrecht NL (2021); Force Times Distance – On Labour and it’s Sonic Ecologies – Sonsbeek 20- 24’, Sonsbeek, Arnhem NL (2021); La Colour crue, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, Rennes FR (2021); In the Presence of Absence, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, NL (2021), The Seventh Continent, 16th Istanbul Biennial TR (2019); Affective Affinities, Biennale de Sao Paulo', Sao Paulo BR (2018); Retour sur Mulholland Drive, La Panacée, Montpelier FR (2017); What People Do for Money, Manifesta 11, Zurich CH (2016).