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Lost in Space at the Nasher

by Gail Sachson 9 Mar 2016 1:03 PM

Guest blogger Gail Sachson feels her way through Ann Veronica Janssens’ exhibit.


Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art offering lectures, tours and program planning. She usually leads, but at the Nasher she lost her way.

I was in a line of about 20 people, having waited about 20 minutes. A disclaimer was handed out, warning those with allergies, asthma or respiratory limitations to be cautious. Children’s hands should be held. The venue would take no responsibility for lost clothing.

Art&Seek’s Jerome Weeks got lost in the fog too. Ann Veronica Janssens exhibit continues through April 17.

Where were we? Not at Six Flags or Disneyland or the House of Mirrors. We were at the world renown Nasher Sculpture Center, waiting to enter a 26.6 ‘ x 14.9′ x 11.5’ translucent pavilion installed in the garden. We were waiting to spend a few minutes lost in space, to experience  “Blue, Red, Yellow”, the color infused experiment in perception, direction and balance  conceived by sixty year old Belgium light artist Ann Veronica Janssens, whose exhibition, her first one person museum show in the US, will remain at the Nasher through April 17.

“Blue, Red, Yellow”,  one of Janssens’ six light-based installations in the exhibit, is not the first architectural structure installed in the Nasher’s garden. The now-destroyed James Turrell “Tending Blue” and the 2013 Nasher XChange work “Everything I know I learned the day my son was born”, by Alfredo Jarr, offered walk-in sculpture experiences. But those environments were more controlled and grounded. There was seating, timed LED lighting, communal listening. Janssens’ pavilion gives the control over to us. Our bodies take over.

In the pavilion, the artist has created and captured fog ( CO2 and mineral oil), mixed it with color and confined it in space. It has been repeatedly said that she “gives materiality to air and light”.  The dense mist absorbs and mixes the colors which radiate from the plastic walls which are covered with transparent film in blue, red and yellow.

Janssens plays with our brain, our eyes, actually all of our senses as we hesitantly enter the box. We are enveloped in a 1960s Jules Olitski color field painting. We are truly lost in space.

Some of us feel dizzy and anxious. Where is that door ? ( Look for the blue.) Others find the experience intimately sublime and calming. “Each of us”, the artist explains, “will react differently. The experience can be painful or offer a pause. The brain can rest or be exhausted. One pleased participant said, “It is an alternative universe without drugs.”

You will want to return several times because each experience will be unique, depending on the weather, the time of day, whether others are with you ( only 6 are allowed at one time), your eyesight, physical frailties and frame of mind.

If you accept the challenge to participate and promise to absolve the Nasher of all responsibility “that may result therefrom,” you are agreeing to be part of a psychological and physical experiment, one which Janssens has explored as a prototype in her own garden. At the Nasher, she offers that experience to others, pushing us to let loose of the burden of control and encouraging us to slow down. She prefers that we visit the pavilion one at a time, “better to take time and appreciate being alone.” She says, “It’s up to the participant whether to leave the cellphone in their pocket.”