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Ann Veronica Janssens' Sensorial Experience on View at Wiels
Ann Veronica Janssens, Les Riffs. Courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer © Dimitri Riemis.
BRUSSELS.- Ann Veronica Janssens questions the elusive. She tries less to grasp the impalpable and chooses to experiment with its multiple forms and apparitions instead. Janssens work is based on one's sensorial experience, the encounter of the body and the space. She uses light, colour and sound to create experiences that heighten a viewer's perception and awareness of space and movement. The visitor – whom Janssens disorientates by the modification and destruction of the known space – is an integral part of her installations. She engages all senses to render the immaterial visible and tangible.

Phenomenal experiences are nearly impossible to capture but often awaken the senses of the individual. Janssens' exhibition at Wiels will include sensory experiences for the viewer through the utilization of: dazzle, flashing lights, persistence of vision, vertigo, saturation, speed and infinite sounds …These phenomena border the edge of visual and auditory instability. For her exhibition at Wiels, ten new sculptures will be presented, among which six large devices will be real immersions, like bathing light, sound or colour.

Most of the time her sculptures cannot be photographically captured... but shall be experienced.

Projects
1. Untitled (Martin MAC2000 Performance), 2009

Creation / new production
Light projection on screen. Duration: approximately 69 minutes.
Programming: LiveLine, Stéphane de Ridder

Ann Veronica Janssens has always been concerned with the potential of the material itself and of all that it is possible to extract from it. So she knows that every technology contains a kind of inspiration source for aesthetic, social, and even political forms of organisation. She uses a method of systematically represented disassembly and examines numerous possible functions. Potentials and faults thus activated, we are witnessing effects (abnormal) and often hypnotic.

While exploring/exploiting the Martin MAC2000 Performance projector, she tests light in movement, images raw and primordial: flickering, pulsations, geometric forms, flashes, fading in and fading out… A group of short sequences was chosen and orchestrated, travelling between the extremes of the double phenomenon of excess and defect. Sometimes it vibrates for as long as the violence of numerous successive beats, generating violent after-effects, and sometimes the image stabilizes, changing slowly every so often, so slowly that nothing seems to happen. Manipulation of energy.

As to the number of effects, one can cite a light projected to the limit of materialisation, softly appearing (and disappearing), a chiaroscuro, a game on the chromatic fringes of geometric form, of prismatic effects and of moiré… to the projection of violently accelerating abstract forms and their progressive deformations, the illusion of burnt stains on the screen itself (due to the retinal impression resulting from the various coloured spots). The hypnotic effect is sometimes comparable with the chromatic flickering of her scrubs.

Ann Veronica Janssens’ work continuously oscillates between a conscious – and ultimately combined – use of certain tools/support mechanisms (there is no illusion regarding the manufacturing technique of her installations, as, for the most part, everything is visible) and an abuse of the same tools by the introduction of noises, accidents, and irregularities. A form of sabotage summons the sublime, light in all its dimensions… Noise is ordinarily considered out of-place, it disrupts the smooth character of standardised artistic productions, and with that, the circulation of easily consumable products. Here, contrarily, it is avidly pursued.

In its raw and physical contact with the technical, the material recalls the radical experimentation taking place in the cinema of the 1960s and 70s (Kubelka, Sharits, Jacobs, Brackage,…), in which the film, projector, projection screen, sound, curtain, etc. (all the components of the cinema!) were experimented with, in all senses. Ann veronica Janssens also envisages the numerous technical possibilities of the machine, feels all its resistance, invents a double-life…

The haptic apprehension of sound and light (one can recall Kubelka’s expression regarding the light that hits the screen1), so dear to that generation of avant-garde artists, allows them to drastically oppose the classical, visual and illusionistic cinema. An effect that is regularly used, flickering (the quick passage of light into darkness, and the return to light), is itself a noise. It is at once a feat and a form of technological failure. A proof and an alibi for the discontinuity between the 24 image seconds of the cinema, and for the thinness of the black frame that creates the ‘flickering’ image.

In playing with slow motion, freeze-frames, rewinding, enlarging, repetition, fading in and out, making blurry,… This creation exploits heterogeneity, noise, and a form of discontinuous graininess, to ultimately confuse the narrative and representative homogeneity of the classical film.

2. Son infini, 2009
Creation / new production
Programming: Axel Fostier

A sampled sound fragment is multiplied and superimposed onto several descending octaves. The fundamental sequence becomes harmonic: 1, then 2, then 3 and so on, to the point of resuming the role of fundamental. The programming in a continuous loop, in a subtle play of temporal shift, causes an auditory illusion of infinite descent. The ear – but certainly the body in its entirety -that is subjected to these sounds, then creates an illusion of ascent or descent without end. All its fluids, up to its most delicate neurons, then vibrate to the frequencies of this sound. Our acoustical machinery and all of our sensory receptors and nerve connections resound in our body and underline our hyper presence. The two individuals who developed these multi-octave ranges in the 1960s and 70s are the researcher and the composer, Roger Shepard and Jeans Claude Risset.

The source of the majority of serious sounds (even sub-woofers) possesses the distinction of being hollow and metallic drones; the sound – all-enveloping – has an indisputable physical dimension. Low frequency buzzing and physical constraint reach deep into our gut, the sound is visceral. It acts on our body like a powerful brake. Time becomes intense, physical.

Since here it is about sculpture, the depth of descent gives form to this sound. It has a strange presence, a vacuousness concentrated in the middle of the space. But being a black hole (a form of negative energy), it obliterates the surrounding space.

3. Liquid bar, 2009
steel, paraffin oil

A long beam of raw polished steel, mirrored on one side. The artist tilts the extreme, utilitarian, blind object in the light, engendering an effect of liquefaction and shimmering metal. An additional dimension, a form of depth, engulfs the space through its reflection.

4. Rouge 106, Bleu 132, 2003-2009
Reconstruction

Initially introduced in 2003 as part of the exhibition ‘In the origins of abstraction’ at the Musée d’Orsay, the installation functioned as an entryway, an introduction, a bath of vibrating and incandescent light welcoming the visitors.

The installation, in itself, will be presented at Wiels, featured as a white box rounded off internally and covered with a translucent cloth. Eighty halogen spotlights are installed in the technical ceiling and equipped with red (106) and blue (132) filters, flickering alternately at a rapid and irregular frequency.

The effect of visual instability creates «visual snow» on the retina itself. The eye is spattered with geometric spots of different colours. The white walls dematerialize due to the loss of focal length. We enter into abstraction. This chromatic vibration space is an attempt to reflect-explore pure pictoriality through the utilisation of a luminous medium.

Afterimages. Due to the alternate flashing of the two primary colours, and depending on each of them (and on our physiological properties), variations of yellow and blue/green appear in a negative retinal print. It is indeed the complementary colors of blue and red on the color wheel representing the colour spectrum visible to the human eye.

This sensory experience and the bodily perception implicated by it, being proprioceptive (which is, among other things, the perception of the movements of our own body – via organs, receptors and the nerve centre – as well as of the mechanical constraints they exercise over it), underlines the performative aspect and the relationships between constructed space and mental space.

5. Videos

The artist has filmed the exploration subjectively and abstractly - a kind of work in situ - Wiels. The images distorted by the wide-angle lens review materials, surfaces, areas of passage/transit and margins, as well as zones of shadow and light. Here too are limited states. The video image is crushed, undermined by a range of physical ‘torture’. Speed or extreme slowness, quick assemblage, over and under-exposure, inversion, roly-poly. The films produced are a dizziness of strange pictures. Wiels, its physical integrity, appears, but only very occasionally here and there. What we are dealing with are oblique, altered, abstract images, and/or images used as a counterpoint to the given physical context. The stretch of the real is pushed to its final defense with this camera that captures the real at nearly 150°. These images, having a strong perceptual and/or physical impact, recall a storm of abstract images – and give the physical impression of vertigo – as much as a long and slow movement of blurred pictures.

Scrub, a hyperactive coloured geometric film introducing an unbridled succession of rectangles of all sizes coloured with all colours. The visual effect is an optical waterfall of leftover hallucinatory images and a chromatic marking of the visitor’s eye. Silent fireworks, frontal bombardment, the work plays on visual confusion. In spite of the violence of the flashes of light (perhaps caused by this same physical impact) the visitor is captivated, fascinated by the hypnotic potency of the flickering. The systematic interlocking of geometric forms is evidently (?) a quotation – a twinkle in the eye of the Bauhaus experiments in colour theory that enticed a critic to say, smiling from the corner of his mouth, that the general effect was kind of like ‘Josef Albers on speed’. This film no longer recalls the abstract areas of experimental cinema and the optic tests and kinetics of the 1960s and 70s. It updates the flicker-film to video, through which Tony Conrad, Peter Kubelka, Paul Sharits and others became famous…

Also being introduced are some videos of eclipses filmed by the artist (in Turkey in 2006, in Mongolia in 2008 and in China in 2009). This in-depth research now questions what was initiated with Side in 2006 (an eclipse in Side, Antalya, Turkey; March 29th, 2006) as a film commissioned by Wiels for its official opening in 2007. It paid tribute to Joseph Plateau, the creator of the cinema, who burned his eyes by looking at the sun. Projected, an eclipse appears like a masterly eye that – black and vibrating – receive the visitor.

And to conclude the selection: Slow light, a video that shows a 25 watt bulb and a neon tube which are lit and emitted at 1/1000th of second. The film was then taken up to different speeds. And Jupiter, attempting to film the radiance of Jupiter. The result is a stain of fragile and hesitant light on the background space.

6. Untitled (Golden section), 2009
In collaboration with Michel François
Creation / new production
Developed in collaboration with Michel François during the creation of ‘The Song’, a fragment of Anne Teresa De Keersmaecker’s new choreographic piece will be presented at Wiels.

This luminous projection onto a sheet of crumpled mirror floats in space. The projection of white light onto this surface creates a shimmer, at once enchanting and and worrying. Sublime. The many irregular reflections project onto us an effect both infinitely small and an infinitely large. The effects of the light can be seen as the microscopic visualization of human tissues, the bucolic reflection of the light on a river, a dark forest on the night of a full moon, the Milky Way through the telescope,…

Besides the size of this installation, which comprises a real immersion for the viewer, one can underline the three components of this installation as being the light, the mirror and the fold, true emblems of the baroque. Mieke Bal has perfectly updated this paradox as being the baroque force of the purified and minimal work of Ann Veronica Janssens2. The act of making the experience of these immersive installations and coloured baths, luminous or sonorous, leads us all to move forward slowly in the folds of a vibrating material that envelops us, that immerses us in a bodily vertigo.

In a recent interview, two visual artists together with the choreographer decided (at first, in any case) to eliminate music from the exhibition because: 'in listening well to silence, one hears the space singing'.

7. Chambre Anéchoïque, 2009
Creation / new production

“Try as we may to make silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes, it is desirable to have a place as silent as possible. Such a room is called anechoic chamber, it comprises of six walls made of special material, a room without echoes. I entered one such room at Harvard University several years ago and heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation. Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear the future of music.” – John Cage 4

The anéchoïque room is an experimental space in which all the internal surfaces are covered with absorbent acoustic materials, and thus there is no echo to unsettle or to disturb the recordings, sound tests, etc.… Here the room is covered with dihedrals in polymeric foam, true ‘sound traps’. The main feature of this material is to absorb the sound waves and capture their reflection within the acute angle of its double-facing. One uses such rooms to measure acoustical waves, the sensitivity of a microphone, the frequency of a loudspeaker and numerous other sound phenomena, in conditions known as the “free field", that is to say, in the absence of components having been subjected to reverberation on the walls.

Designated the ‘Anechoic room’, this could be an attempt to approach silence and free oneself from the multitude of noise that encircles us. Perfectly isolated from the outside, it also captures any internal noise. However, silence very quickly makes room for a buzzing sound, the visitor’s own body, headiness (blood pressure, pounding of the heart, nervous system), the silence itself progressively replaced by differentiation and amplification of all our internal noises. Our body becomes the loudspeaker of our own sounds …

It is not insignificant that John Cage is quoted in this context; he was the author of 4’33", the piece also commonly known as Silence.

The psycho-acoustical and psychophysical properties of absolute silence plunge the visitor into a state of consciousness likely to cause him to discover a form of hyper-presence – the denseness of his own body, a multitude and variety of sounds with their own resonance – a form of hyper-individuality.

Ready-made sounds and, paradoxically, the ‘anechoic room’, lend the body the possibility of a sonic experience never had in real-life or – at the very least – rarely. The performative aspect; after all, this is definitely about a performance, of this visit more than compensates for the static nature of the Ready-made sounds and, paradoxically, the ‘anechoic room’, lend the body the possibility of a sonic experience never had in real-life or – at the very least – rarely. The performative aspect (after all, this is definitely about a performance) of this visit more than compensates for the static nature of the room – it constitutes an end in itself. So the visitor – the listener – is himself ‘played’ by his own music.

8. Some prototypes, tests, sculptures, research

- Phosphorescent glass bar, which literally switches on on contact with the wall.
- Cocktail Sculpture (2008; glass, paraffin oil and distilled water), an aquarium in which two transparent liquids perfectly overlap.
- A block of concrete retained in its fall by a rope hanging from the ceiling.
- Window
- Infinite space poster

9. Sinus/Resonances, 2009
Creation / new production

This sound creation is an experience that disorients, that disturbs. Confronting music and sounds, today ever-more disembodied and digital, and reverting an art of complete contact, of physical resonance… this installation redirects the study of sounds to architecture and the body. Architecture and the body as the source as well as the target of sound.

The foundations of this installation find themselves in the physical phenomenon of maintaining a wavelength frequency that corresponds to the dimensions of the actual room. It thus enters into resonance.

The sound installation permanently broadcasts the length of clean stationary waves in the room (the length, breadth, height and viscosity of the air contained in the room). The physical nature of this room (its non-scattering and non-absorbent walls, or even very reflective) allows the waves to stay stationary without needing to utilise too much energy. The amplitude of sound changes in both time and space – during the physical displacement of the listeners – and creates a phenomenon of interference. Knots (superimposing) and cancellations (waves that cancel each other out) create and compose a sound landscape.

10. Blue, Red and Yellow, 2001 (reconstructed in 2008)
Production: EACC Castello

This sculpture was created by Ann Veronica Jannsens in 2001 for her exhibition Light games at the Neue Nationalegalerie in Berlin, at the close of her D.A.A.D. study grant period.

The version exhibited on the roof terrace at Wiels (nearly 35 metres high and with an impressive panoramic view) during the opening, is a reconstruction of the original pavilion, executed in 2008 for her personal exhibition Are you exeperienced? at the Centre of Contemporary Art in Castello in 2009.

The container (the outside of this minimal sculpture reveals nothing of what is on the inside) is a kind of mobile sculpture, or even a magical cube, a pandora’s box (?)… covered with translucent, coloured surfaces in polycarbonate. A red side, a blue side, a yellow side and a side left neutral. The red and the blue sides share the roof.

The rectangular pavilion is filled with a thick artificial mist. As soon as you enter, you literally find yourself immersed in a cloud coloured by natural light that penetrates the different walls that encircle the pavilion. It therefore goes without saying that the course of the sun and the climatic fluctuations make of this installation a kind of sensitive and reactive material.

Two steps inside, slowly taken, and the loss of all our reference points is complete. First of all, the mist is so dense that you can barely see your feet; and then the loss of short-range vision brings about a feeling of rocking, of slowing down, of suspension, of spatial anxiety and of distress… A certain ecstasy too.

As the artist says: ”The mist has contradictory effects on the act of seeing. It removes all obstacles, all reality, all contextual resistance, and at the same time, it seems to give materiality and tactility to the light. (…) All points of reference have disappeared; the light illuminates nothing that can exert authority over our wanderings. We return to the surface of our eyes, to a kind of amnesia, to an internal space that opens unprecedented perspectives.”

Once indoors, we penetrate into pure abstraction because any contact with reality is now impossible. We physically live the experience of pure colour and the modulations of the imperceptible path between the colours.

11. 9000 euros (Conversions), 2009
9000 stickers affixed to €1 coins
In free circulation at Wiels during the course of the exhibition

Translation of the monetary value of 1 euro into 9 other values: chance (0.00000001 likelihood of winning the national lottery), ecstasy (18 seconds of love), violence (0.25 grams of dynamite), weightlessness (0.06 seconds of zero gravity, flying high at a high altitude), silence (4 minutes 43 seconds in our Anéchoïque room), stardust (0.033 grams of meteorite), memory (0.167 Gb on a memory stick), oxygen (3.03 litres of oxygen in a bottle) and light (900.9 watts from Electrabel).



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