Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS is presenting a collection of new works by Saskia Janssen as well as a publication under the title A Glass of Water (Some Objects on the Path to Enlightenment). The works have been created over the previous year in response to the lessons about Buddhism that Janssen has been attending every week at the temple – housed in the cellar of a sunbed salon – of a small Buddhist community in eastern Amsterdam. During these lessons and the lectures and rituals conducted by visiting lamas, Janssen takes notes and makes sketches. Once back in her studio, she turns them into drawings, photos, sculptures and texts, thus transforming the lessons into works or revisiting earlier works from a new perspective. In doing this she follows a self-imposed rule: no depictions of Buddha, no exoticism. For her the crux is the transformation from concept to work and the shift in perspective.
A Glass of Water is a tangential sequel to the Me & You on a Golden Avenue exhibition, which was the result of Janssen’s encounters at the Blaka Watra walk-in centre, a space for long-term users of hard drugs in Amsterdam. There Janssen’s focus was on encounters with strangers, but here it is about an encounter with the great unknown. The two locations and their populations could hardly be more different, but in an extraordinary way there is also an overlap: both offer a different view of the world around us, provide more space to think and a greater capacity to place things in perspective.
At Blaka Watra I meet people who own nothing more than a plastic bag and the clothes they are standing in. At the temple I encounter lamas who explain why you actually don’t have to possess anything more than what you truly need. While the users spend their days wearing themselves out to acquire the necessary drugs for their pursuit of ultimate happiness, the lamas devote most of their time to meditation and study on the path to Enlightenment, their own form of ultimate bliss.
The publication A Glass of Water (Some Objects on the Path to Enlightenment) will be available at the gallery during the exhibition (in a numbered edition of 60). From 26 February, a PDF version of the publication can be downloaded for free via http://www.saskiajanssen.com/A-Glass-of-Water
Saskia Janssen (NL, 1968) mixes performance, documentary and sociology in her -mostly socially engaged- works, that are made for specific sites. Janssen studied Fine Arts at the KABK in the Hague, and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Currently she teaches at de Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Recent exhibitions include Fries Museum, Fort Ruigenhoek and Museum de Paviljoens.