Ann Lislegaard is a post-conceptual artist working in spatial installations, 3-D animation, and architectonic interventions. Her art is typified by a fascination with how we experience and orientate ourselves in space and time, both mentally and physically. She often uses fragmentary and mixed narratives in order to challenge our cognitive and sensory abilities.
Lislegaard's training was in sculpture and her art often takes the form of simple physical or architectonic interventions that are reinforced or developed through sound, light, or animation. The finished piece is not her primary concern, but rather the notion of breaking down structure. A characteristic of her works is therefore that they often take the form of constructive relativization, frequently with an absence of imagery. One example is Double Vision from 2004, in which a woman is filmed moving about in a constructed 3-D world. The stripped-down simplicity of the architecture emphasizes the movement of light in the rooms, while the combination of the constructed scenario and the “real” woman suggests a prevailing fascination with how an individual perceives herself in relation to an expanded concept of reality.
Language plays an important role in Lislegaard's art, in which repetition, loops, and superimposed voices are employed. In several of her works she explores the concept of heteroglossia, a multitude of voices. The texts in her installations are often plucked from literary works. For instance, in the sound and light installation Slamming the Front Door (after A Doll’s House) from 2005, the repetitive declamation of the line “She is slamming the front door” thematicizes Nora's revolt in Ibsen's famous play. Four different female voices move around the room, the motion underpinned by pulsating colored light. Lislegaard often works with light in this way, as a method of highlighting and expanding visually on the inherent possibilities of language.
Throughout her career, Lislegaard has explored and attempted to redefine perceptual experience, identity, and how we relate to both private and public space. In later works she suggests points of contact between her own artistic vision and classic science-fiction novels in which narratives concerning our understanding of time, gender, and identity are played out in utopian scenarios. Sci-fi is almost unique in popular culture in tackling complex problems of sexuality, fear of the unfamiliar, and the relationship between past, present, and future. Lislegaard was inspired by the definition of sci-fi literature proposed by theoretician Darko Suvin: “a literary genre for cognitive estrangement,” by which the reader is transposed to an alternative reality that is both recognizable and unprecedented. For a trilogy of works created between 2005 and 2006 she took as her inspiration three sci-fi novels. In Crystal World (after J.G. Ballard) (2006), she has created a three-dimensional world in gradual transformation. The visual framework is based on Oscar Niemeyer's Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion in São Paulo and furnished with identifiable modernist artworks. The connection to Brazilian modernism is deliberate: it can be read as a commentary on European modernism, which, for all its visions of a better world, merely extended a form of imperialism. Furthermore, the construction of Brasilia as capital city was a utopian vision not dissimilar to constructing a 3-D world. Crystal World can therefore be interpreted as a mental landscape in which various ideas about modernity are played out.
The other works in the trilogy are the installations Bellona (after Samuel R. Delany)(2005), and Left Hand of Darkness (after Ursula K. Le Guin) (2008). Here Lislegaard challenges our conventional reality orientation and relationship to gender identity. Newer works like Time Machine (2011), based on H.G. Wells' novella, can be read as a critical reflection on existing systems of communication. Utilizing advanced 3-D technology Lislegaard has developed a complex universe that might be described as non-thematic interpretations of themes touched on in these literary works. Sound, light, and images combine to form an artistic expression that is both appealing and surprising, and which challenges our concepts of time, space, sexuality, and the unknown.