Jan Fabre has played a significant role as a visual artist, theatremaker, and author for more than 35 years. He studied in the late 1970s at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and Crafts in Antwerp. His innovative and diverse body of work has earned him international recognition, including for Tivoli (1990), The man who measures the clouds (1998), Heaven of Delight (2002), Searching for Utopia (2003), Totem (2004), Homo Faber (2006), The Night of Diana (2007), Anthropology of a Planet (2007) The Angel of Metamorphosis (2008), From the Cellar to the Attic. From the Feet to the Brain (2008-9), Chapters I–XVIII (2010), Tribute to Belgian Congo (2010-13), Hortus/Corpus (2011), Pietas (2011), The Gaze Within (The Hour Blue) (2011-13), Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo (2011-13), and Stigmata. Actions & Performances 1976–2013 (2013, 2015). Full details of Fabre’s past and current projects can be found on his website.
HELSINKI, 20 March 1985
It’s a small festival.
Three artists. Tadeusz Kantor, Laurie Anderson, and myself.
Not a bad selection.
It was an easy day today.
I wasn’t happy with the space where we had to perform.
They suggested a new location.
An Art Nouveau building. The students’ cultural centre.
It is a beautiful space. I told the organiser that the place had been defiled by rock bands and pop artists. And that I couldn’t abide that.
I told them they had to have the place cleaned extremely well and to call in a priest to consecrate the building anew. So it could once again become a spiritual place for theatre.
The funny thing was, they thought I was serious and did exactly what I asked.
(What forbids a laughing man from telling the truth?)
Tonight on the national Finnish news, an extended piece on Belgium and my work.
Around midnight, the Polish theatre artist Tadeusz Kantor began cursing and swearing throughout the corridors of the hotel.
He kept on slamming doors and walking to and fro between two rooms.
It turned out he was having an argument with two of his favourite actresses.
It was Polish drama at its best.
I felt like I was a character in one of his productions.
His anger betrayed the same intensity that can be found in his directing and in his own productions.
I realised that I was witnessing something unique.
(I saw art/theatre/life seep into one another until there were no longer clear distinctions to be made between the respective disciplines.)
Author’s diary entry, 20 March 1985.
Doodle in author’s diary, 20 March 1985.
HELSINKI, 21 March 1985
Everything was looking as it should.
The small festival’s team of technicians had done a fantastic job.
The Power of Theatrical Madness had been well-integrated.
The theatre was full to the brim, overflowing even. There were people standing, sitting on the stairs, or even lying on the floor.
And my warriors of beauty played as if it was the last time in their lives they would play The Power… before a Finnish audience. It was a veritable theatrical feast!
Everyone happy and contented.
Afterwards a fantastic party.
The male members of my gang had their virility put to the ultimate test.
I saw most of them get into taxis in the company of two or three Finnish beauties.
And I am thrilled because I know that the master himself, Tadeusz Kantor, had come to see my production and thought it was marvellous (I heard this from the organiser).
I want to tell the whole world. Except I realise that 99% of the theatre-going public in Belgium has never even heard of Tadeusz Kantor.
My world is small and in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
Am I that king?
No, because I am the god of insomnia.
Try and get some sleep, you fool!
Author’s diary entries, 20-21 March 1985.
Doodle in author’s diary, 21 March 1985.
Diary entries, 21-22 March 1985.