In preparation for the art installation Joan Jonas: They Come to Us Without a Word that opened on January 22, 2016, the NTU CCA (Centre for Contemporary Art) organized a “Behind the Scenes with Jan Kroeze” talk with the American lighting designer, responsible for lighting the exhibition.

Kroeze has an impressive background and experience in mainstream events. He worked previously not only with Joan Jonas but also with personalities from a variety of fields among them : Philippe Parreno, Merce Cunningham, Nam June Paik, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Karl Lagerfeld, Red Grooms, Marc Jacobs, Robert Wilson, Christian Lacroix, Judy Pfaff and Kanye West.


This was Kroeze’s first public talk after many years as a professional light designer and director of Photography. Representing a category of artists that normally works behind the scenes without much public attention, the work of a lighting designer is fundamental to help creating the mood of an event and many times can help define its success. That is why well-established fashion brands do not think twice before hiring a good professional to do the lighting for their events. As Kroeze shared with the public at CCA, in the case of a fashion show, the more impactful is your event the more spontaneous media it will generate, consequently increasing the marketing of its brand. Working for fashion shows helped him to set his imagination free and create different environments according to the collection.

He also shared that he used to hate doing architectural lighting until he worked with a photographer who helped him to understand the good use of light to create depth and volume.  Kroeze shared that he discovered that in a fashion show the audience should be part of the show since the light is co-opting their perception and that helps to create the overall effect for the event.

For upcoming lighting designers his advice is that ‘In light there are laws, but no rules’, which in his opinion is what helps the creative freedom. The role of the lighting designer is to convey information through light, directing the audience’s gaze to what you want them to see. Many times when seeing an art show, at the catwalk or watching a movie we are not aware of the important role of the lighting designer. However, even when viewers are not consciously aware of the light they can still feel the differences between a good and a bad light.

They Come to Us without a Word celebrates his second collaboration with Joan Jonas and was first organised for the U.S. Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale and co-curated by Paul C. Ha, Director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center and Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore. He specifically mentioned how the light for this exhibition was a challenge considering that there are sculptures and props interacting with film projections. Normally in this kind of situations, according to Kroeze, the objects become islands of light dissociated from the projection. This happens mainly as an attempt to avoid the light from the object to spill onto the screen, consequently washing away the brightness of the film. He wanted to try something different and that is how he convinced Jonas to have him do the lighting for her piece. To avoid the problem he used lights that had the same brightness and colour temperature as the projectors’ lights, which helped create an atmosphere without losing the brightness of the screens.

You can check out Kroeze’s lighting in Singapore at the NTU CCA exhibition Joan Jonas: They Come to Us Without a Word while keeping an eye on the upcoming fashion shows. You might never let light go unnoticed again.


Joan Jonas: They Come to Us Without a Word

@NTU CCA Singapore

Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, Singapore 109443

Exhibition Hours

Tue – Sun: 12.00 – 7.00pm

Fri: 12.00 – 9.00pm

Mon: Closed

Open on Public Holidays

Free Admission

Exhibition tours by NTU CCA Singapore

Wednesdays, 2.30 – 3.30pm

Advance booking needed


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Christine Veras is a maker who enjoys experiencing and creating art, devices and texts. She is currently pursuing her PhD on ‘Animated Installations’ at the School of Art, Design and Media in NTU.