Water, sisal twine, a scarf and pearls. Techno, an unvisited church, the Baltic Sea. Paper planes, plaster, a wheatfield. Janne Steinhardt finds her way of self expression through performance and installation. She utilises her body while interacting with objects of different sorts, often consisting of natural materials. She is developing a body of work deeply personal, inevitably political, while not at all private and giving no voyeuristic insight. The shifts and turns of her journey to this current point have often been challenging, something that shines through Janne’s art practice.
In Janne’s performance Das Mädchen (2021), she references Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. Here, Janne addresses questions of class, accessability to art education and the gaze & gazed upon. Who is this girl, and who can become a part of this world?
Janne, turning pages
With a dance background, movement has always been crucial for her. Yet for several years, she has consistently drifted away from the contemporary dance scene. Recently, Janne’s practice has focused almost exclusively on producing performance art and installation. In her work one can sense the impact of her past. There remains a sensitive and detailed approach to the movements of her body, guiding everything else. This transformation from dancer to artist involved a lot of stages and definitely some moments of awakening. She is no longer being directed. She is her own medium.
One pivotal experience was attending a performance workshop by Johannes Diemling in Görlitz in the summer of 2021. There, she created three durational perfomances. In You know I miss the Father when it comes to carrying to bottles upstairs (2021), she tied 46 water-filled plastic bottles to her hands with sisal lace. She then dragged them uphill to a church. Powerful and captivating, the piece is deeply personal, even though the concrete story behind it is not clear to the viewer. The performance translates the raw emotion hidden behind and evokes intense feelings nevertheless.
An important element in her vocabulary, she also used sisal twine in her Lunapark (2021) installation and performance at ArtKapella. The piece looked at the question of home as it related to the land. As a local participant at PK, she is turning to the same material again for the upcoming exhibition, Cosy Concrete Cable Store. This time Janne is working on a large scale site-specific installation.
Less is more
Janne’s approach to the world as well as to artmaking is minimal, yet refined. One does not need that much to create something of value. Learning this was a big relief and reassurance for her. Meeting and working with Jacqueline van de Geer, Montréal-based Dutch performance artist drove home the concept that meaningful art can absolutely happen from scratch. Jacqueline was a great source of encouragement and taught her that the performance comes from inside rather than outside. In her practice, Janne selects her materials carefully, anything unnecessary is to be discarded. She always seeks to bring any material she uses to its fullest potential.
Painting, sitting, moving
Amongst the many things learned from working with Jacqueline was how to relax into performing. A meditative aspect lingers through many of her works. This stillness has come into play more and more as she has found herself as artist model to Simon Sieradzki. Whilst sitting for Simon’s paintings, she became the motionless one. Conversely through the physical act of painting, Simon became the more active one. She met the Australian-born painter, musician last fall when he was an international resident at PILOTENKUECHE.
With her as the performer, and him as the painter, their “roles” switched. This partially inspired them to create a performance together as part of Simon’s work Wolkenraten (2021), for the PK show Questioning Space Accumulation. This performance is built on rhythm, movement and interaction between the ‘artist’ and the ‘subject’.
Heritage and future
Among other things, their Polish origins tie them together. For the exhibition Warm White Cow, Janne created the installation and performance Do Hejdla Smyrek (2022). It tackles emotions and memories of Poland. The piece recalls an imaginary conversation with a strong and stubborn woman, her aunt. She laudes the importance of wheat – essentially, the simple joys of life, the countryside. The work calls into question the glorification of the West and capitalism. Janne performed at the vernissage, in conversation with her installation and accompanied by Simon’s guitar.
They seem to be developing a profound and beautiful connection, with mutual inspiration and love fuelling creativity. Come what may, they will take their collaboration to the next level when they present it in Perth, Australia soon. We wish them all the best for the upcoming times!
written by Fanni Papp
You can find out the latest on Janne’s website. Come see her work in person.
Matilde Søes Rasmussen