British/Belgian Ann Veronica Janssens will be bringing the bewilderment to this year’s Biennale, with a series of works geared towards disorienting audiences and breaking down their doors of perception. A veteran of the arts scene with more than three decades of practice under her belt, Janssen will be bringing variations on two of her most popular concepts: a large-scale installation of mist and light, and a suite of reflective ‘aquariums’.
Janssens’ body of work is characterised by an ongoing fascination with exploring the frontiers of perception. In her breakthrough work 'Donut' (2003) she employed stroboscopic projections of concentric blue circles in an otherwise dark room, provoking in viewers an unsettling optical illusion in which the rings appeared to be ‘rippling’. In another, far simpler intervention, 'Phosphenes' (1997), she distributed flyers instructing passersby to press their eyelids closed for a short period, in order to conjure up luminous images behind their eyelids.
“I would like my work to provoke an experience of excess or the feeling of surpassing limits,” Janssens explains. “I like the idea that these elements [such as fog, fluids, colours and lights] may have a disorientating or dazzling effect on viewers, pushing them towards a threshold of visual, temporal, physical and psychological instability.”
Punters looking for a less disorienting and more dazzling experience should seek out Janssens’ Golden Section installation at Carriageworks, involving an interplay of reflected and refracted light between foil drapes suspended from the ceiling, and six of her ‘aquariums’ – cubic glass vitrines in which she arranges layers of oil and water and reflective screens.
Those after a more immersive and disorienting experience should head to Cockatoo Island’s cavernous Turbine Hall, for her installation of artificial mist and light. As cultural critic Mieke Bal has said of the experience, “I saw nothing, with my eyes wide open.” In this state of sensory deprivation, audience members frequently describe the sensation of time slowing.
“I like the contrast of the powerful industrial site against my fluid, ephemeral and transparent work,” says Janssens. “The work will infiltrate the space rather than impose itself upon it.”