Author: Joseph Nechvatal --- Date: 04/16/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Jan Fabre
Trois Solo' s
Theatre de la Ville Paris
Avril 13

Jan Fabre, with three small performance pieces entitled the "Trois Solo's", collapses many of the limits between music, dance and the visual image and so situates the viewer in the midst of an assimilation in which Fabre quite transparently mixes European Romantic and Expressionist High-Art tropes in the most flagrant way imaginable. The heavily episodic music of Eugeniusz Knapik, which ranges from serial dissonant abstract music to pictorial florid lush Romanticism, provides Fabre's visually oriented choreography with a form of commingled expression which suggests that the usefulness of any unified style may no longer serve as a totality with which to move a dancer within any particular emotional vision. This of course is not new. Sadly this is the most obvious interpretation in lieu of the work's lack of dramatic action / extreme expression, which has been typical of Fabre and which I detected grievously missing here. The pieces lacked substantive tension. In this sense the narrative interpretations of his solo works became merely non-linear and therefore suggested transition rather than resolution.

While the cultural range of his dance performances became increasingly circumscribed by this uneasy conjunction of powerful romantic/symbolic form and accelerated expressionism; the dancers themselves never served to enjoin the viewers to abandon the contrasts and breach our discriminating guise.

Within the correlations that do emerge however, the fragmentation and reassembly of European neo-avant-garde/neo-modernist art and dance are subdued to the prioritizing of neo-modernist classical music. This, as pathetic as it may sound, is one of the most interesting features of these three pieces, as the musical performances were highlighted in an obviously extravagant way. These three relatively short dance pieces, each in their own way, presented a range of dance possibilities that reside within ballet and modern dance historical conventions; yet they do not confront the issue of style as a valid epistemic force. Their stylistic insubstantiality though cannot be mistaken for a new post-postmodern significance. What emerges out of these dances is then the reconfigured constitution of experimental art within a codified form, not unlike the typical work of Pina Bausch for example. A discourse between the two, however, did not occur.

While often caught in the rationale of novelty, Fabre's precious dance images seemed almost self-justifying and immune from the concerns of cultural criticism. However any informed dissatisfaction surrounding his neo-avant-garde performance art, knows that predictable public response ranges from dizzying exaggeration to narrow minded solipsism. Nevertheless, the merging discourses of music, dance and art in his work seem to have reached critical mass. Theories of the rebirth of the European avant-garde must be joined with theories of neo-pop discourse. Without this dialectic, the affiliations between his representations of challenging/extreme experimental art poised against boring classical artistic convention, remain mired in outmoded presumptions about the two cultures.

Without all of the assumptions of progress that have hexed Western culture, Fabre has emerged in the art-entertainment complex by recycling European cultural trophies; but it is evident to me that Fabre has not been conceptualizing within any coherent discourse of social modification or about the human ontological and epistemological impact or shift which his work might spawn. He really should.

Joseph Nechvatal

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michael portnoy --

I am a performance artist/musician/dancer. I have never seen Fabre's work and I came to your review hoping to find some description of the work. Too bad! Do you have any video of his work or know anybody that does? I thought The Kitchen might, but no. Please call me with any leads: (212) 479-7316 -Michael Portnoy