Ann Veronica Janssens

Born in 1956 in Folkestone (GB)
Lives and works in Brussels (BE)

MUHKA, Anvers

Brouillard artificiel
Dimensions variables
Year of Purchase: 1997

To describe Ann Veronica Janssens’ MUHKA, Anvers is to attempt the impossible and give an account of a singular psycho-sensory type of experience of space and light; it is also to address the major questions that contemporary art raises for the museum and for the visitor, now an active player.

To walk into a cottony white space with visibility down to a few centimetres, and then, taking every precaution, to move around a place that has become unknown and unbounded, gives us a very personal experience of the question of movement, time and bodily – not just visual – perception. When space becomes endless, increasingly abstract, like some ghostly space in which there are no immediate systems for recognition, we are sure to lose our bearings.

In this ‘labyrinth’ of the senses, the borderline between seeing and touching fades, and experimentation takes precedence over our supposed visual knowledge. The work then merges into an exploration of an unbounded architectural space through a body with heightened senses – especially hearing, for here sound is used in a completely contextual way. In this thick artificial mist, sound, taking up outside noises, indicates reality. Fluid and universal just like light, it adds the finishing touch to the body’s ordeal by simulating reality.

Janssens’ work is not alone in having this non-representable quality. It undoubtedly goes over ground first explored in the 1960s by French kinetic artists (notably François Molnar and the GRAV group as early as 1960), the American Minimalists (think of Steam, 1967 by Robert Morris or Inert Gas series, 1969 by Robert Barry) for whom, reading Merleau-Ponty, the testing of any belief and any visual a priori was to be taken as a prerequisite, and individual experimentation a necessity. Also, during that same period, reconsideration of the objet d’art through the performance merely reinforced the ‘bodily perception’ of space by putting moving and surveying first and hieratic thought second. With a great economy of means (impalpable fluids, gases, sound and light waves, aqueous elements) the work of Ann Veronica Janssens does not show anything, but rather incites us to see. It resists the authoritarian forms of masculine architecture; it interferes with and defies the scale of space and time. It also carries on a long tradition in the history of art whereby the artist expounds and conveys the latest scientific discoveries and brings visitors these sublime, dreamlike moments.

Béatrice Josse