The scientific pop art of Alice Janne

Born in Namur and currently residing in Brussels, artist Alice Janne (1985) shares some insight into her practice, which is based on random combinations from her archives and constructed entirely out of found objects, resulting in works that are as singular as they are unpredictable. On show with her sideproject The Sour at Brussels’ Centrale for Contemporary Art until 4th December, we talk to the artist about her production process, her local scene and fitting in.

At its core, what is your work about? What is its starting point and statement?

I’ve been collecting objects and papers in the streets since 2008. They’re my visual database. When observing the ground, I discover the illegibility of the world, along with all its contradictions, its chaos and its repression. It’s a way of seeing society’s evolution through its own traces, as an archeology of the present. I archive all these elements, chronologically and by country. I’d like to make them accessible to the public in the future through interface web.

Can you talk to us about your approach in general? What characterizes your work?

There’s a definite connection with pop art, because of the aesthetisation of motives and colours found in contemporary consumption culture. Then there’s a scientific and arithmic side to the archives, as well. I’m very precise in the way I develop different systems, they’re almost mathematical. Because of these different elements, the space in which my work is placed is important, so I observe the space thoroughly and try to put it in relation with my work. I often like to incorporate something that looks like a fence on the floor, made out of tape, as a reference to 3D programs that play on different dimensions.

How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?

I scan every object and then archive it. After I’ve chosen an object, or rather an ensemble of objects that function together, I proceed to scale it to paper. Then I enlarge it, through painting or sculpture, to then place it into a space. I’ve recently started using and creating mini Python programmes that allow me to play with the different colours and shapes in my archives. The resulting code provides me with random number generators, creating unexpected blends. For example: the typeface from a packet of sugar printed on a 120kg block of concrete.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?

My education at ERG / École de Recherche Graphique in Brussels has influenced me without a doubt, but I feel more free than back when I was a student. And my practice is of course nourished and constructed through other exhibitions and travels.

What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?

Like every artist, I think, it’s often strange and difficult to find your place in a defined network. More so, it’s near impossible to live off your art. But I love working in Belgium, I think we’re lucky to have an open artistic environment in Brussels, thanks in no small part to the many art spaces and projects.

How do you see yourself fit into the country’s contemporary art scene?

Difficult question. I’m lucky to have several ongoing projects. But I’m not exactly sure where I fit in personally. I’d say I’m quite dispersed, trying different things, without being part of a certain circle or clique.

Talk to us about the people around you, your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?

There’s quite a dynamic contemporary art scene here in Brussels, thanks partly to spaces like Komplot and Hekla. I don’t work from a shared studio, but friends are crucial, whether for discussions or for motivation. I’m always happy to see friends progress in their work and in their projects.

What does success look like to you?

Success is a conceptual notion. I’m already very happy to participate in different projects, and to have a platform to show my work.

To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?

Like music, contemporary art is a means of expression, as a human being in a social context and in a society that doesn’t necessarily agree with us, but in which we live nonetheless. Freedom of expression is important, and at this very moment it’s crucial to be reminded of that fact.

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Which Belgian artists do you follow, look at for inspiration? Either from the past or the present.

Some well known and established artists such as Walter Swennen, Francis Alÿs and Anne Veronica Janssens, but mostly the younger scene (and, of course, my friends).

On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work? And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?

The everyday is very present in my work, as I draw inspiration from the streets and from what I encounter in my day-to-day life. My choice to pursue artistic endeavours wasn’t understood by everyone from the start, but in general I feel very supported.

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