Jan Fabre’s Insects:
on real Presence
Jan Fabre was born in the Belgian city of Antwerp in 1958 where he also later studied at the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In the late seventies, while still very young, he created a furore with his solo performances, whose nature lay somewhere between theatre and art. For example, in his ‘money’ performances he set light to bundles of money collected from the audience and did drawings with the ashes. In 1984 he performed with De Macht der Theaterlijke Dwaasheden at the invitation of the Venice Biennale. This performance, which subsequently toured the world, is chronicled in every book on the history of contemporary theatre . In 1979 Fabre was invited to the documenta IX in Kassel (Germany).
Fabre integrates different animals with mythological connotations – like rabbits and owls – in his performances and many other art-projects such as films and sculptures. His ancestor was the famous entomologist Jean-Henry Fabre (1823-1915) and this explains Fabre’s obsessively interest in insectology. He has long pursued the idea of adding ‘a few pages to the history of insects’ without owing anything to scientific training. In his collages Fantasie – insecten – sculpturen (1979) he combines insect corpses with modern utensils as a plethora of surreal creatures: a winged spider, a beetle-pen, and a beetle-beer bottle opener. Another example is Metamorphoses (1993), a “mythological poem”, in which he draws the transformation process of all kinds of existing and imaginary insects. Since the early nineties Fabre ‘designs’ exhibitions with angels, for example Mur de la montée des anges (Wall of the Ascending Angels, 1993). The used materials are jewel beetles and iron wire. Fabre explains his preoccupation with beetles in an interview: