Catastrophe and The Relevance of Art
Ik, aan het dromen [Me, Dreaming], 1978
This early work by Jan Fabre – an artist who is himself not uncontested, having been recently convicted in Belgium of the assault and sexual harassment of women – was first presented in a gallery which was located opposite a bar of a right-wing militia with neo-Nazi affiliations. The exhibition Fabre made was an overt response to that organisation. It was defensive, in a vital, self-assured way. At the same time, it takes a radically different orientation.
Studded in gold tacks, Jan Fabre creates his own effigy as one before a table, looking through a microscope, scrutinizing and observing the world, much as his art does. The protective shell the artist created for himself is both alluring and repellent, with its thousands of beautiful, yet sharp pins. Such an ambivalent reaction is triggered by instincts that make us human – a desire for beauty combined with self-defence that is physical, mental and emotional. But this dream suit has visible gaps, symbolizing fragility and feelings we cannot control.
It is a kind of a shell that every Ukrainian now is familiar with because of the need to deal with reality. But it’s never fully protective.