les presses du réel


Dirk Snauwaert
(p. 5-6)

This publication derives from Ann Veronica Janssens' solo exhibition at WIELS, entitled Serendipity, constructed around a set of works outlining her artistic research over the last few decades, hence recent projects and those still in the laboratory phase. As is often the case with Ann Veronica Janssens, the work evaporates or almost entirely physically disappears after its presentation, and only the experiences, the memory of it and its documentation remain to reconstruct or reconfigure the chapters that punctuate the precise and consistent path traced by Ann Veronica Janssens through her work over the past thirty years.
This book thus attempts to account for these phenomena, beginning with photographic documentation of the Serendipity exhibition in the specific spatial context of the premises at WIELS. The architecture, the exhibition route and the installations were constructed by the artist in close dialogue with Charles Gohy, exhibition curator, who has supplemented these with written records of each of the exhibited works, found here alongside a photographic documentation.
To comment on this exhibition preview, it's entirely appropriate that an invitation be extended to Mieke Bal, one of the artist's main critics, so that a new chapter be written and the new exhibition proposal be put into perspective with those that preceded it, certain of which were also the subject of reviews or critical essays from the same hand. The text here is based on what was said at her talk during the Serendipity exhibition. As such it articulates and expands upon her theses on the concepts, the realisations and their effects, as well as their evolution since 1999. Idiosyncratically, Bal was indeed invited to publish a first draft in 1999, Light in Life's Lab, appearing in the book-catalogue Ann Veronica Janssens: Une image différente dans chaque oeil / A Different Image in Each Eye on the occasion of the double presentation Horror Vacui in the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. A presentation that defined the beginning of Janssens' international visibility. This first engagement was succeeded by an invitation to publish her text in German for Lichtspiel, a publication appearing in the context of her exhibitions at Kunstverein Munich and for DAAD at the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin in 2001, which marked a new phase regarding her visibility. The author took advantage of this invitation to add fresh reflections about Janssens' work. The text: 'Serendipity: The miracle of being where you are' constitutes her third and most recent reflection. The outstanding quality of this text and the author's particular vision, which enables other interpretations and broader perspectives, beyond history or the current state of contemporary art, cannot be accentuated enough.
Ann Veronica Janssens occupies a specific place in the art of recent decades, resulting from her significant research into light and auditory phenomena, and the multiple manifestations of their realisation, avoiding all symbolism or emphasis, and often taking the risk of placing the viewer in situations of loss — contrary to the detachment, distanced and objectifying perception, the austere position eternally associated with that of rational modernism. In Janssens' work one oscillates between conceptualising sensations, thoughtful but also immersive — trying to learn what happens to the senses and the body during an act of immersion, loss of self, pure sensation, without any distance; an effect resulting from an understanding of ideas about the world and it's multiple manifestations.
And so she does nothing other than pursue the route set by the radical and rigorous avant-garde, as per one Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who in the 1930s posited that the artist of the future should first be an engineer, conducting his experiments and projects processed by immaterial radio wave transmissions, and transposing his plans using the latest technology of his time, rather than imagining reflections and composing the symbolic and the tasteful. It is in keeping with this that we must view the continuation of Ann Veronica Janssens' experimentation with technologies and sophisticated, experimental materials, with which she primarily seeks to shape experiences and unknown sensations up until the time of having had the experience; that is to say, outside the vigorously symbolic, those that one only encounters in the phenomena of science and whose derivatives are found in the technologies that inform their practical application. With her practicable, manageable applications, Janssens again offers a sphere of reflection and introduces potentialities other than the utilitarian and pragmatic, allowing for the discovery of a spiritual and experimental facet. This tome constitutes both a testimony and a new landmark in her journey.
Ann Veronica Janssens: other title

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