The animal in man is under threat
The tendency to want to control and perfect oneself and the universe is one of Anya Janssen’s major fascinations and has been a constant theme over recent years. In a time in which, with recourse to genetic manipulation and plastic surgery, we believe that we have ever increasing power over ‘mother nature’, we are nonetheless confronted by what we really are: monsters with animal urges. As civilised, rational beings, we want to distance ourselves from our basal emotions. In taking a sideways glance at this aspiration, Janssen attempts to show that it is probably doomed to fail.
In the series ‘Animal Urge’ she uses her own body as a metaphor for all our inborn uncontrollable urges and instincts. The naked bodies seem to be driven primarily by instinct, lust and fear expressed in animal reflexes such as hunting, cherishing or subservience. With this, she sketches man as a creature whose actions are governed more by animal urges than by rational considerations. Conversely, in the follow-up series ‘Animal Strategy’, Janssen is more concerned with the borderline area between cultivated behavior and instinctive actions.
Characteristic of Janssen’s work is how, by constantly making consecutive series of works, she creates her own evolution that now and then runs concurrently with that of ‘mother nature’. But she sometimes takes a futuristic step, outstripping mother earth. This can be seen in her latest series ‘The parliament of monsters’, in which she has imprisoned herself in the frame of the painter’s canvas. Confused and helpless, we are preserves for posterity and science. The creatures seem to be preserved in formaldehyde like animated snapshots. Having been subjected to overenthousiastic genetic manipulation, we have probably become too aberrant to go on living. From time to time, we hear a muffled cry that triggers the realization that it is perhaps the animal in man, and not man the cultivated animal, that is strongest.