During several of his performances of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jan Fabre introduces the ballpoint pen as an alternative for the art of the Great Masters. At first, the choice for the blue ballpoint was a matter of practicality: "It was cheap and handy, I could take them everywhere and steal them everywhere." Moreover, Fabre is vey much aware that no other artist uses ballpoint pen. The chemical nature of the blue ink, containing a sort of silver gelatine, provides for the effect that drawings are not static, that they become fluid. Further, the colour refers to the concept propounded by French entomologist and namesake Jean-Henri Fabre: ‘The Blue Hour’, that magical moment between the end of night and begin of day, the cleave of time, when all changes and all is possible.
For the action Bic Art Propaganda, Jan Fabre sends handmade postcards the world over, by way of publicizing his Bic Art-movement. The play of words
Ik stempel (H)Art [approx. I stamp (He)Art] on the envelopes refers to the artist's financial situation, with him then having to go each day and get his stamp for the dole. The music that you hear during The Bic Art Music Performance is the scratch of ballpoint pen on paper. The drawing becomes musical score. With the action Bic Art Print, the artist investigates (influenced by Klein) prints made using his own body.
Belgium is the only country where the national tricolour is traditionally imprinted on cleaning cloths. Using one such floor cloth, Jan Fabre cleans the museal
Jordaenshuis in Antwerp (Cleaning the Museum). On his floor cloth it states: ‘Only acts of poetical terrorism’. During the performance Ilad of the Bic Art, Fabre as Ilad (Dalí reversed) directly confronts art history. He rips out an art reproduction, pins it to the wall, and then gives it the treatment with his blue Bic pen. For Ilad of the Bic Art, the Bic Art Room, Jan Fabre locks himself up for three days and nights in a completely white room, wearing white clothes, eating white food. At the end of it all, the whole room (and he himself!) are fully clad with texts and signs.
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Ilad of the Bic Art, the ...
Jan Fabre, Ilad of the Bic Art, the Bic Art Room, 1981. Performance, 3 days and 3 nights.