Janssens explores spatio-temporal experience and the limits of perception through precise installation and minimal sculpture. ‘I investigate the permeability of contexts’ she has said, ‘[...] even as I propose a form of deconstruction that fragments our perception of these contexts.’ Her first works, made during the 1980s, were constructions or spatial extensions of existing architecture such as Gallery inexistent, Antwerpen (1988), an installation created by stacking borrowed concrete blocks in a gallery space. Since then, however, she has often applied scientific knowledge to the use of non-material mediums such as light, mist or sound. Her works can act like triggers, encouraging heightened visual awareness by exposing or revealing the transitory conditions of particular situations and a slowing down of perception.
Janssens sees her installations as a form of hypnosis, requiring focused attention and awareness on the part of the viewer. In a work that is part of her ‘Dichroic Projection’ series, for example, she exposes how different coloured lights can create charged atmospheres, specific perceptual effects or psychological ‘moods’. By orchestrating subtle changes in light or movement with the minimum of means – in this case only a 750 watt halogen lamp, dichroic filter and tripod – she allows for multiple-interpretations, enabling each viewer to have their own unique experience. ‘I always experiment with the possibilities of rendering fluid the perception of matter or architecture which I see as some kind of obstacle to movement and sculpture,’ she has said. ‘My use of light to infiltrate matter and architecture is undertaken with a view of provoking a perceptual experience wherein this materiality is made unstable, its resistance dissolved. This movement is often provoked by the brain itself.’
The primal shapes and common materials that Janssens often works with are transformed through a considered use of scale, colour and placement to expose optical or spatial contexts and shift perceptual understanding. In one work, part of the ongoing ‘Aquarium’ series consisting of glass cubes filled with paraffin oil, a thin, coloured layer of liquid seems – as a result of a strange optical phenomenon – to be floating above an expanse of clear liquid. Janssens has also used gold to cover objects, resulting in reflective, abstract and luminous forms that seem autonomous or disconnected from their surroundings. For the work Californian Blinds #2 (2015), for instance, Janssens has covered standard Venetian blinds in gold leaf to create a sculpture with undulating reflections. Likewise, in Canicule #2 (2011−15), a sheet of corrugated aluminium covered with gold leaf appears to be floating away from the wall. The French title of the work, heat wave in English, alludes to meteorological effects and the occurence of a mirage, whereby the reverberation of heat waves appears to produce an actual image. As Mieke Bal has written about Janssens’s work: ‘They entrap the viewer, body and soul, in an experience so unsettling that something really shifts in one’s physical being in the world. This is how her art performs – by requiring us to perform it.’