Ann Veronica Janssens


Invited by curator Moritz Küng to participate in Utrecht’s fourteenth annual Festival a/d Werf celebrating art, music, and theater, Ann Veronica Janssens took the opportunity to elaborate her notion of “superspace.” Comprising twelve works scattered throughout the city, “Superspace,” 1999, established a network of experiences through which the artist, the viewer, and the city could connect.

On paying for a general-admission pass to the festival, viewers received a packet that included a map delineating the locations of Janssens’s interventions and a telephone card that provided a 900 number that visitors could use to call the artist’s answering machine. Distributed as well was ƒf15,000, 1999, six thousand coins (2.5 florin pieces) covered in silver stickers bearing one of six texts, suggesting what the coin was worth in other “currencies” of the artist’s choosing, including oxygen, memory, and sexual excitement. One reads on some coins, for example, that they are worth “three seconds of agreement” or “108 seconds of silence.”

In the central train station, on “Bizz Board” screens that usually feature trailers for upcoming films, Janssens presented Phosphènes (Fireflies), 1997/99, an image of two people pressing their fingertips to their eyelids, accompanied by a moving text proposing that viewers do the same in order to experience “colorful and luminous patterns.” Soundscape, 1999, involved a thirty-minute ride in one of five two-seater cars outfitted with a driver and a techno-music cassette. Viewers who weren’t in the mood for a drive could instead lose themselves in L’espace infini (Infinite space), 1999, a wood-and-plaster model (presented in a mobile construction office set up in a city square) of an interior space whose walls are coated with plaster in such a way that all edges and definition of the space are obscured. For the equally destabilizing Agoraphobia, 1999, 16-by-20-inch mirrors were distributed at the gates of a church under renovation; viewers were instructed to explore the space using the mirror, a disorienting, and at times vertiginous, experience. One’s perception was similarly challenged by Tunnel, 1999, an underground footpath the entrance to which was all but obscured by streams of white smoke. Janssens invited viewers to change the environment themselves in Liquid Crystal, 1999, a set of twelve pillows dotting the lawn of a small courtyard. As one sat down, body heat altered the liquid crystals covering the cushions, creating rainbows and other coloristic effects.

Again and again, the viewer was forced to abandon his or her usual points of reference. The boundaries separating physical from mental space, public from private, were progressively dissolved. The intervals of time between viewing the artworks themselves became tools of dissolution: the dissolution of the spectator in the city. While each of the “arrangements” was notable for its discretion and lightness—whether encountered as transparency, whiteness, geometry, or weightlessness—considered together, they made for a formidable exhibition experience.

Anne Pontégnie

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.