Belgian artist Jan Fabre tried for “sexual harassment” at work and “indecent assault”

In turn caught up in the #MeToo wave, the Belgian artist Jan Fabre will have to appear on Friday, March 25, before the criminal court of Antwerp (north) to answer the charges of “sexual harassment” within her dance company and “indecent assault”.

The trial that opened on Friday morning was to begin with the testimonies of the victims. Twelve women accuse him and “will be present“, assured the Belgian Institute for the equality of women and men, also a civil party. The hearing must continue on April 1 and then the sentence will be deliberated. The 63-year-old visual artist and choreographer incurs a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

This trial should be an opportunity to hear his explanations for the first time since September 2018, when the case broke through an open letter from former employees or trainees at his company Troubleyn. In this text, published by a specialized Dutch language medium, a total of twenty people, mostly dancers, denounce the pressure, harassment and even blackmail of a sexual nature that the choreographer suffers in her work.

Jan Fabre later refutes the accusations. “Here we are not forcing anyone to do things that one or the other considers off limits. I never intended to intimidate or hurt people psychologically or sexually.“, he alleges in a right of reply to the same medium.

At the time, after the wave of MeToo born in 2017 with the Weinstein affair in the United States, the Flemish authorities, in the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium, launched a study to identify inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature in the world of the media and culture. In this context, Jan Fabre, one of the leading European figures in contemporary art, was interviewed in June 2018 by the VRT channel.

When presented with the results of the study which states that one in four women in this industry has already experienced an unwanted sexual advance at work, she replied: “home, never“. “In our company, in forty years, there has never been the slightest problem“, he assures, triggering a strong response.

The open letter is full of detailed statements and accuses him of having once said “no sex, no solo” to a dancer. It made headlines in Belgium and abroad. In Antwerp, the Labor Auditor, a specialized section of the public prosecutor’s office, opened an investigation.

Three years of investigations lead in June 2021 to a referral to the criminal justice system for “workplace violence, harassment or sexual harassment“with respect to”12 employees“as well as for a”bullying“against one of these women.

Born in Antwerp in December 1958, Jan Fabre, author, visual artist and theater director, has earned a reputation since the 1980s as one of the most versatile and avant-garde artists of his time. Famous for his beetle wing cases (he covered the entire ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors in the Royal Palace of Brussels), he is also known for his taunts.

In 2012, he had to apologize after a performance that showed a “throw catsin Antwerp, which caused him to be physically assaulted. Faced with the prospect of the trial, the cultural sector shuddered, sometimes having to decide between supporting a monument of contemporary art or distancing itself from a man who is now too sulphurous.

A Troubleyn show planned for the end of 2021 in Charleroi (Francophone Belgium) has been canceled after “pressure and invective“, according to the programmer. On the other hand, in Namur (center), it is not about removing the sculpture of a giant tortoise that has become an emblem of the city.”No one imagined erasing all Woody Allen’s films when he was the subject of a complaint“, stressed Mayor Maxime Prévot.

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