Jan Fabre: Knight of Despair / Warrior of Beauty at Hermitage
Jan Fabre (Antwerp, 1958), a visual artist, theatre artist and author, uses his works to speculate in a loud and tangible manner about life and death, physical and social transformations, as well as about the cruel and intelligent imagination which is present in both animals and humans.
For more than thirty-five years Jan Fabre has been one of the most innovative and important figures on the international contemporary art scene. As a visual artist, theatre maker and author he hascreated a highly personal world with its own rules and laws, as well as its own characters, symbols, and recurring motifs. Influenced by research carried out by the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915), he became fascinated by the world of insects and other creatures at a very young age. In the late seventies, while studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and Crafts in Antwerp, he explored ways of extending his research to the domain of the human body. His own performances and actions, from 1976 to the present, have been essential to his artistic journey. Jan Fabre’s language involves a variety of materials and is situated in a world of his own, populated by bodies in a balance between the opposites that define natural existence. Metamorphosis is a key concept in any approach to Jan Fabre’s body of thought, in which human and animal life are in constant interaction. He unfolds his universe through his author’s texts and nocturnal notes, published in the volumes of his Night Diary. As a consilience artist, he has merged performance art and theatre. Jan Fabre has changed the idiom of the theatre by bringing real time and real action to the stage. After his historic eight-hour production "This is theatre like it was to be expected and foreseen" (1982) and four-hour production "The power of theatrical madness" (1984), he raised his work to a new level in the exceptional and monumental "Mount Olympus. To glorify the cult of tragedy, a 24-hour performance" (2015).
Exhibition of Belgian artist Jan Fabre “the Knight of despair – a warrior of beauty”, which a few days ago has opened in the Hermitage, sparked a wave of indignation in social networks. Angry Internet users launched a hashtag #позорэрмитажу, and management of the state Museum had to give explanations.
Some unprepared visitors were shocked by the works of Fabre. Especially much of Petersburgers and guests of the Northern capital were angered by the “Protest of the dead stray cats” and “Carnival of the dead mongrels” . One of the visitors of the exhibition told me that when she and her family saw the stuffed animal, was terrified.
Despite the protests of animal rights activists and claims of visitors, the Hermitage is not going to dismantle the installations of the Belgian artist. “We do not believe that this show is somehow violates the rights of animals or those who love them, but exactly the opposite,” — said the radio station “Moscow speaking” the head of the Department of contemporary art Museum Dmitry Ozerkov.
“Fabre himself has repeatedly told reporters that dogs and cats that appear in his installations, it is stray animals dead on the roads. Fabre is trying to give them new life in art and thus to conquer death,” — said in a statement on the website of the Hermitage.
The exhibition has been organized by the Contemporary Art Department at the State Hermitage in a frame of the Hermitage 20/21 Project. It is under patronage of V St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum.