Press Release

From April 6 to July 30, 2023 Pirelli HangarBicocca presents Grand Bal, a retrospective of the work of Belgian artist Ann Veronica Janssens. Throughout her 40-year career, Janssens has continued to experiment with light, her primary material. She has investigated the sensory and performative nature of space and architecture, creating works that are mutable and ephemeral. The exhibition, curated by Roberta Tenconi, is conceived as an extended choreography that situates environmental installations alongside more intimate works, tracing a visual, aural and tactile path that invites visitors to move between the incorporeal, the tangible and between surreal atmospheres and the socio-political and cultural signs of our present time.



International exhibitions

International ongoing exhibitions

Ann Veronica Janssens, Grand Bal

Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (Italy)

06.04 - 30.07.2023




Since the late 1970s, Ann Veronica Janssens (Folkestone, UK, 1956; lives and works in Brussels) has developed her research around light and its relationship to what surrounds it, often creating site-specific works that challenge the immutable nature of sculpture and installation. Frequently associated with the work of “ight & Space”the 1960s group of American artists that included, among others, Robert Irwin, Maria Nordman and James Turrell—anssens has built her practice on overcoming the art object through its dematerialization and deconstruction. Through minimal forms and gestures that have an anti-monumental quality, Janssens is actually able to change the public’ perception of space. With their use of light, color, mirrors, air or artificial fog, the works of Janssens call for the direct participation of viewers, inviting them to experience reality differently, to develop an awareness of their senses, of the architecture and spatial-temporal categories by which we define it, emphasizing its sociopolitical and cultural aspects. Often based on experiments carried out in collaboration with scientists, the artist’ works become labs for testing the boundaries between properties and physical-material elements that are regarded as opposites, such as light and darkness, sound and silence, emptiness and presence, the tangible and the incorporeal.

Grand Bal explores the career of Ann Veronica Janssens as well as different aspects of her practice. Presenting the most comprehensive selection of her works to date, it includes both historical projects and new productions designed to interact with the space of the Navate within Pirelli HangarBicocca and the outdoor area, expanding its boundaries. To do this, the artist has come up with an unprecedented intervention, waves (2023), in which she transforms some of the exit doors into openings: by replacing the doors with a porous, transparent PVC net, she allows natural light, as well as sounds, air and other external elements, to penetrate into the exhibition space. The resulting alterations fit dynamically within the exhibition plan, conceived by the artist as a visual and sound choreography that centers not so much on objects as on visitors: they are called upon to move and participate directly, following the train of sensations and perceptions generated while experiencing the works. The title “rand Bal”(grand ball in French) evokes precisely this performative dimension, and the dynamic relationship that is established between works, architecture and the human body as in a dance, where each and every element is necessary for the other to reveal itself completely. This connection is already evident in the first installation that opens the exhibition, Drops (2023), presented at the entrance to the Navate. Twelve round mirrors, arranged on the floor, reflect drop-like fragments and details of the building’ architectural structure, troubling the visitor’ perception of the site and offering new visual perspectives on the surroundings.

Many of the artist’ works question the meaning of architecture, redefining the features of buildings and public spaces. For example, in Area (2023), a section of the Navate is altered by a large walkable surface composed of bricks, a space within a space that also houses other works. Some swings suspended above the bricks make up the work Swings (2000–2023). Visitors are invited to use these elements and the dissonance between the swings and the enclosed space makes them aware of their own movement and of the air displacement caused by the rocking motion. The seats are also covered with a heat-reactive film that changes hue upon contact with warmth: the presence of the human body temporarily changes the appearance of the work, leaving an ephemeral trace of its passage.

Ann Veronica Janssens also explores the dissolution of space itself through sensory and perceptual interventions. L’space infini (1999), a hollow rectangular structure that has no corners or edges, confronts visitors with a completely white environment, in which an optical effect prevents the eye from discerning dimensions and borders, causing a sense of vertigo and infinity. Similarly, the installation that closes the exhibition, MUKHA, Anvers (1997-2023), also produces similar results. In this case, the artist uses a dense artificial fog and natural light to dissolve and blur the features of the room and the presence of bodies, even as she makes more visible the physical and material qualities of the air in a seemingly empty environment. Janssens’investigation of the sculptural dimension of light and color leads her to experiment with the accidental connotations of natural phenomena, down to the microscopic scale. Untitled (Prism) (2013), in its apparent simplicity, is formed by a small crystal prism placed on a sheet of glass captures light, whose colored reflections are manifested within the form.

Vew of Ann Veronica Janssens: Grand Bal, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2023. Courtesy of the artist; Alfonso Artiaco, Naples; Bortolami Gallery, New York; mennour, Paris/London; Esther Schipper, Berlin/Paris/Seoul; Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp; 1301PE, Los Angeles, and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. © 2023 Ann Veronica Janssens / SIAE. Photo: Andrea Rossetti.

Exhibition 06 April - 30 July 2023. Pirelli HangarBicocca, Via Chiese, 2 - 20126 Milan (Italy). T +39 02 6611 1573. Hours: Thursday–Sunday 10:30am–8:30pm






Ann Veronica Janssens, Grand Bal, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy

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