18 months conditional on the controversial Flemish artist Jan Fabre


Jan Fabre.Image EPA

Belgian artist Jan Fabre (63) was sentenced by the court in Antwerp on Friday morning to a suspended prison sentence of eighteen months, with a suspended sentence of five years and a symbolic compensation of 1 euro for all victims.

The prosecution previously demanded three years in prison. According to Faber’s lawyer, an acquittal was in order because, according to him, there would be a lack of evidence. The artist’s pure criminal record played a role in the verdict. Fabre was not even present when the verdict was read. He also missed previous sessions, according to his lawyer, because the case affected him too much.

‘No sex, no solo’

Eleven dancers from Troubleyn, Fabre’s theater company, accused him of cross-border behavior. Fabre is said to have set up a system in which he asked his artists for sexual services, often in exchange for a prominent role. †no sex no solo was the slogan with which they summed up their complaints.

Erotic photo sessions also often took place. Fabre would invite young dancers to pose for him naked or in lingerie and to take erotic poses. The pictures were intended for his magazine Janus or as study material for his visual art projects. According to the dancers, the photo sessions had an unwanted sexual charge.

The judge ruled that five complaints were obsolete. A complaint was declared inadmissible. But Fabre was found guilty of five other charges, pretty much all related to the photo shoot. The systematic nature of the shots constituted an aggravating circumstance. In one case, a French kiss, it was a ‘violation of obscenity’.

Depression

In the judge’s view, Fabre has systematically been guilty of violence, bullying and unwanted sexual behavior. In doing so, he made use of his hierarchical position as leader of Troubleyn. Many of the complainants had stated that they suffered from depression afterwards, or they lost the desire to continue their dance career.

Jan Fabre, called ‘one not without merit’ in the judgment, is one of the leading contemporary artists in two disciplines. His plays – usually a mix of dance, performance and theater – have performed at major festivals and major theaters around the world.

His visual art can be seen in museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Kröller-Müller in Veluwe. Both his theatrical work and his visual art have regularly created controversy for decades. In the verdict, the judge stated that he saw no reason to separate the dancers’ employment conditions from Fabre’s work as a visual artist.

Temper

Fabre’s theater is very physical. Sexuality, violence, repetition and nudity are recurring elements. Fabre asks his dancers to push their boundaries in improvisations and workshops. His lawyer’s defense was also based on this: Anyone who can not handle this way of working would do well not to work with his company.

In the verdict, the judge stated that he had taken into account the artistic freedom required and that ‘all participants were aware that naked body parts, including intimate areas, would be shown’.

In an open letter last month, Fabre showed that he is mindful of asking many of his dancers, ‘Am I too driven and too emotional when I work? Yes, “he wrote.” I always thought I was an empathetic artist, I did not know myself well enough. “The judge showed that he had not included Fabre’s temperament in the verdict: ‘The accused is not accused because of his charming or non-charming personality. ‘

This is the second major case in a short time of sexually abusive behavior in Belgium. Six months ago, TV personality Bart de Pauw received six months probation for sexual intimidation.

Many theaters have already canceled performances of Fabre in recent years, his visual art has been removed from a number of public places.

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