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“From sand, artworks in glass”, Jan Fabre, Shitting Doves of Peace and Flying Rats, 2008

curated by BUILDING
in collaboration with Jean Blanchaert

12 Dec 2019 - 13 Jan 2020

Jan Fabre
Shitting Doves of Peace and Flying Rats, 2008
Bic ink on Murano glass, marble and iron
9 elements, each 20 x 19 x 20 cm

“Animal-human, vegetable-human, material-human and spiritual-human symbolically participate in the creation of the images and arcane shapes of Fabre’s “to be or not to be” obsession, like in Shitting Doves of Peace and Flying Rats (2008), made with blue Bic ink manually applied to glass. Ever since the Assyrians, for whom Semiramis flew to heaven in the form of a dove, alive or dead doves have been animals of peace, spirituality, and elevation of the purity of good and rectitude. Venus’s companion is a dove; a dove is the oracular animal that leads to the golden bough giving access to the Underworld, the only animal allowed to approach the temple of Delphi, Animal-Being and Trinitarian spirit-Being. On the contrary, the Flying Rats, which do not belong to the rodent family, are grey, dreary and quarrelsome pigeons – the doves’ dark side, popularly called “sky rats” in Venice and Berlin, “flying rats” in Paris and Madrid, or “rats with wings” and “winged rats of death” in London. Doves of peace and pigeons of war. The Being of life and not Being of death, Being of flesh and not Being of bones. Our solid structure – bones – is associated with death, given that the rest of our animal bodies consists of soft tissues; it is bones that resist in time and, preserved over millennia, allow us to know who we are, where we come from and where we are going in the cycle of birth, life and death”[1].

BUILDINGBOX is dedicating the 2019-2020 season to contemporary glass art with the project Dalla sabbia, opere in vetro [From sand, artworks in glass], an exhibition spread over 12 monthly appointments, curated by BUILDING in collaboration with Jean Blanchaert. The third artwork is Shitting Doves of Peace and Flying Rats by Jan Fabre.

The title, Dalla sabbia, opere in vetro [From sand, artworks in glass], evokes the fascinating alchemy involved in creating this material from sand, using air and fire, presenting the work of contemporary artists who have chosen to explore the potential offered by this medium. It is the experimental approach that makes these works so exemplary and precious: they are conceived by artists who use various different techniques, some of which are not usually associated with the specific characteristics of glass. This project resonates with BUILDING’s mission of exploring the lesser known aspects and experimental side of the art world, along with more celebrated figures and practices.

Here the focus is on the creative relationship forged between the artist’s vision and the craft of master glassmakers. Easily shaped by skilled hands, glass assumes “fragile” forms that both connect with the artistic traditions of the past and at the same time open up to a formal perspective grounded in contemporary aesthetics. The theme of the project lies in the works themselves, rooted in an age-old history and ancient craft, bearers of a precise chemical combination of different elements developed 4000 years ago by the Phoenicians, and which still holds infinite potential.

For 12 months a sequence of works by various artists will be hosted in the independent showcase, visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, marking the passing of time and eliciting broader reflections on how time tends to dominate space.



Biographical notes

With a career spanning some forty years, Jan Fabre (b. 1958, Antwerp) is regarded as one of the most innovative figures on the international art scene. As a visual artist, theatre artist and author, he creates an intensely personal atmosphere with its own rules, laws, characters, symbols and motifs. Curious by nature, and influenced by the entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre’s (1823-1915) manuscripts, Jan Fabre became fascinated at a young age by the world of insects and other small creatures. In the late 1970’s, during his studies at the Municipal Institute of Decorative Arts and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he began exploring ways of incorporating the human body into his research. Jan Fabre’s visual language exists within an idiosyncratic world, one that is populated by bodies that define natural existence through a permanent balancing act on the thin line between life and death. Metamorphosis and the constant interaction between animal-human and human-animal are key concepts in Fabre’s mental legacy. His spiritual and physical universe unfolds within his literary texts and his nocturnal notes, or so-called ‘Night Diaries’.

Key solo exhibitions by this versatile Belgian artist include Homo Faber (KMSKA, 2006), Hortus/Corpus (Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, 2011) and Stigmata. Actions & Performances, 1976-2013 (MAXXI, Rome, 2013; M HKA, Antwerp, 2015; MAC, Lyon, 2016; Leopold Museum, Vienna, 2017; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville, 2018). He was the first living artist to present a large-scale exhibition at the Louvre, The Angel of Metamorphosis (2008). With his well-known ensemble The Hour Blue (1977-1992), he has travelled to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (2011), the Musée d’Art Moderne in Saint-Etienne (2012) and the Busan Museum of Art (2013), amongst other museums. Jan Fabre was also invited by Dr Mikhail Piotrovsky to create a large-scale exhibition at The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, with  his project entitled Jan Fabre. Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty (2016-2017). In 2016, Jan Fabre was invited to present Spiritual Guards in three historical sites in Florence: the Belvedere, Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria. In 2017 he made Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977- 2017 held in parallel with the 57th Venice Biennale.  BUILDING in Milan dedicated to the artist a two venues exhibition in 2018 The Castles in the Hour Blue. In 2018 he also held an exhibition at the Fondation Maeght of Saint-Paul-de-Vence entitled My nation: the imagination, consisting of sculptures in various materials. Also in 2018, in Estasi e Oracoli (esiste anche il titolo in inglese) various places in Agrigento and Monreale (Sicily) were linked by the artworks of Fabre. In occasion of the 58th Venice Biennale (2019), Jan Fabre devised a 9-meter golden version of The Man Who Measures The Clouds. In the same year he created the exhibition Oro Rosso. Sculture in oro e corallo, dipinte col sangue in various places in Naples.

[1] Jan Fabre, Glass and Bone sculptures 1977-2017, Giacinto di Pietrantonio, Forma Editions, Florence 2017, p. 23.