“I am a one-man movement”

Daiga Rudzāte

An interview with Flemish artist Jan Fabre

Daiga Rudzāte and

Until November 26 the Abbey of San Gregorio in Venice is hosting Jan Fabre’s exhibition, which concentrates on two materials the Belgian artist often uses in his artwork: glass and bones (Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977–2017). Dimitri Ozerkov, who is the director of Contemporary art department at the State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg and the curator of the exhibition along with Katerina Koskina (the director of EMST in Athens) and Giacinto di Pietrantonio (the director of GAMeC in Bergamo), writes in the exhibition’s catalogue: “Glass and bones are the oldest materials in human culture and the two basic media of Jan Fabre, two solid elements of his materia prima. Modern glass is a human invention while bones are a crucial part of all human and animal beings. Glass is transparent and pure, bones are opaque and full of complex individual information preserved in their vegetative shape.”

The Pacifier, 1977. Size: 6,8 cm x 6,8 cm x 9,8 cm. Techn.: Glass, Human Bones, Bic Ink, Wood. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

When describing Fabre’s personality, art theoreticians and journalists use such associative quantities as Renaissance man, alchemist and the greatest philosopher of contemporary art. And these descriptions are true and appropriate, considering the breadth of his creative expression and multimedial nature. Fabre’s “territory” includes not only visual art but also theatre and opera. He is not only an artist but also a thinker, director and researcher. When speaking about the materiality of his art and its critically important role, he emphasises the significance of the description “materia” in the context of his work. As confirmation of the truth of his words, he reminds us of his drawings, to which he returns at least once a year and in which he uses actual human body fluids – blood, tears, semen – and also to The Pacifier, a work he created long ago in which, for the first time in his career, he used human bones.

Pietrantonio writes in the exhibition’s catalogue: “It is a use inherited from age-old tradition since, in the Middle Age and Renaissance, artists used to mix body fluids – as well as ground bones – with pigments and earth to create their secret colours. In this exhibition Fabre does not grind the bones to make colours, but breaks them into fragments to form ‘mosaics’ which become sculptures or objects.”

Fabre considers himself a medieval artist, accenting his bond with centuries of art history and especially Flemish and Northern European painting. “I am a dwarf born in a country of giants,” he says, mentioning Rubens, van Eyck, van Dyck and Ensor. The presence of European cultural and intellectual heritage as well as the continuous desire to study issues that are beyond the scope of this era and this world is what separates Fabre from all the others on today’s contemporary art scene. Life and death, beauty as perfection and ugliness as its opposite, the fragility of living beings – these are the focus of his work and the objects of his constant research. Fabre is Flemish by birth, and his art, which contains echoes of Catholicism (although he is an atheist himself) and a visual language full of codes and references (although he never quotes directly), provides the most visible confirmation of his background and loyalties. He believes that true avantgarde cannot be born in a vacuum; it is always born of tradition.

Each of the objects in Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977–2017 is a significant ingredient of the body of Fabre’s creative work over the past 30 years. The exhibition begins with the greenish glass scarab - work named Holy Dung Beetle with Laurel Tree (2017), which Venice’s light illuminates in a variety of colours. A laurel branch rises above the sacred beetle, which is one of the most important symbols in Flemish painting and an almost constant presence in Fabre’s work. It stands frozen on a platform in the quiet courtyard of the Abbey of San Gregorio, where not a sound of the churning waves and boats on the lagoon nor the chatter of 21st-century tourists can be heard. Only the domes of nearby churches can be seen when looking upward at the sky. And just when you manage to abstract yourself from the specific situation, you feel like you’ve arrived in a space where time has stopped, or time does not exist at all. The ancient staircase, creaking from centuries of use by monks, brings visitors to the second floor of the abbey, where they are greeted by a sculpture from Fabre’s Monks series. Like the Louvre in 2008 or the Scuola Grandedella Misericordia in 2013 or the Palazzo Vecchio in 2015, the abbey is not only a space for the exhibition of Fabre’s work but also a significant emotional and conceptual backdrop for his work. The silhouettes, inspired by the drawings of the famous Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel, reflect Fabre’s philosophically utopian vision of the future human – a being who, like the scarab, will no longer be capable of being wounded, because he will be protected by an exterior shell. But you won’t read that on any interpretive label in the room. One of the rare artist’s comments at this exhibition is a statement written in blue glass: “I am a one-man movement.”

Detail of Greek Gods in a Body-Landscape, 2011. Size: variable dimensions. Techn.: Murano Glass, Human Bones, Bic Ink. Photographer: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

Fabre also mentions this statement during our conversation. He smokes almost non-stop as we sit on the white sofas that are the only pieces of furniture in the room. The view from the large windows opens up to the Grand Canal where it meets the lagoon, and Venice seems to literally step inside to greet us. Along with his native Antwerp and also Athens, this city is a reference point for Fabre. In Venice, death, life, the carnival and beauty all overlay each other and are sublimated into a single entirety. Just like they do in Fabre’s art.

After seeing this exhibition, it seems that you’re currently more interested in death than in life. Is that right?

No. I think death is a very important part of life. We are walking around with death in our body, we are walking around with a skeleton. So for me, death has always been very important in my work. I think all of my work is created in a postmortem stage of life. Because I’ve been in a coma twice in my life.

Really? At what age what that?

One time was for nine days when I was 19, and one time was for twelve days when I was 23. It influenced me a lot in my work, and I think about life in beauty and art.

Maybe that’s why your art contains sorrow and irony but not cynicism.

I refuse cynicism. I think this exhibition also talks about the power and the force and the vulnerability of humankind and animals. For sure, there’s no cynicism inside it. It’s a strong belief in humankind. 

Monk (Paris), 2004. Size: 163,3 cm x 79,1 cm x 49,1 cm. Techn: Human Bones, Iron Wire. Collection: Courtesy Gallery Daniel Templon, Paris--‐Brussels. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

For many years already, one of the materials you use in your art is human bones. But your art also always contains this delicate ambiguity – you can use the bones of all sorts of animals, but there’s still some sort of taboo surrounding human bones that morally prohibits us from touching them and using them as a material.

More than that. They’re not a material, they are materia. For example, my Monks works from the 1990s, which were based on the drawings of Bruegel, essentially talk about how we humans have an internal skeleton. But at the same time these figures, these monks, are for me a kind of futuristic man – a man with an external skeleton. Like a scarab. That means that for man in the future there is no internal skeleton. You will not be able to wound him anymore. So, we will be freed from the stigmata of Christ. 

Do you still remember the first time when you worked with human bones?


Which work was that?

The Pacifier, which is downstairs.

Did you have some kind of special feeling then?

In the 1970s at the flea market in Antwerp we could buy ivory things and we could buy bones. Today all of these things are forbidden. And I made this work in 1977. I was a young guy then. And one morning one of my professors gave me a train ticket and sent me from Antwerp to Eindhoven to see an exhibition by Joseph Beuys. I was so impressed by it! I didn’t understand much, but I was very impressed. I was so overwhelmed by the exhibition that I came home and made The Pacifier. This is a very important work of art for me. Because it was the first time I showed it in public. And now it’s been in a private collection already since 1978. For me it’s a kind of metaphor for what I think about beauty and art. It has to comfort you, but at the same time it has to hurt you.

Skull with Squirrel. 2017. Size: 53,6 cm x 23,8 cm x 25,2 cm. Techn: Murano Glass, Skeleton of a Squirrel, Bic Ink, Stainless Steel. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

I read in an interview that most of the bones that you use come from India. And then I wondered why India. Why not, for example, from Europe?

No, no. Most of them come from Belgium, through universities. There are people who have donated their bodies to science and the arts.

Just like in symbol-heavy Flemish painting, the presence of scarabs is particularly significant in your art. The sculpture of the scarab is also the first thing the viewer sees when entering this exhibition. What does the scarab mean for you?

It was back in 1978, in my parents’ garden, where I made my first laboratory. It was a tent in the shape of two noses. I sat inside with my microscope and some knives and scalpels, making drawings. I dug forms, caught flies and mosquitoes, cut off wings... So I was like a small, young Doctor Frankenstein. I was interested in metamorphosing things. And what happened? My uncle came to visit me, and he said, “Jan, do you know that we have a very important entomologist in our family?” And then I discovered the work of Jean-Henri Fabre, who was my great-grandfather. He wrote the classic works of entomology, and he was a very good autodidact and observer. He wrote fantastic prose and made fantastic drawings. So, this guy influenced me a lot in my work.

This was the first step. Then later, I was a student at the academy and I was studying art history and, of course, all the Flemish masters. And I also discovered the vanitas paintings, where the scarab symbolises the bridge from life to death. But not death as a negative energy field, but as a positive energy field. So, all these things came together over the years. And by researching what the scarab is – it’s one of the oldest computers. It’s an animal that has survived 40 million years and has hardly changed at all during that time. And, they have an external skeleton. We humans have an internal skeleton. So, these are all of the aspects of the research I did.

You mentioned Bruegel. Back in 2010 you said that you are still learning about how to understand beauty from the paintings of Bruegel, Bosch and van Eyck.

Yes. I am a dwarf born in a country of giants. Masters like Hieronymus Bosch, van Dyck, van Eyck, Rubens, Ensor – they are my masters, and still I look for them. In my view, they are sometimes much more supersized then all of contemporary art.

History and tradition are elements of your art, but they are also often the backdrop. Your exhibitions at the the Palazzo Vecchio, the Louvre, the Hermitage and others were integrated into the permanent expositions there.

Yes, because I believe that the real vanguard is rooted in tradition. The vanguard is always in tradition. You can’t be a vanguardist in a vacuum.

Do you believe that the vanguard is possible in today’s world?

Yes, because I’ve been doing it for already forty years. 

Detail of Untitled (Bone Ear), 1988. Size: 180 cm x 250 cm. Techn: Glass, Human Bones, Bic Ink. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

But what’s your definition of the vanguard?

I think my definition is like work from 1981. The statement “I am a one-man movement”. It means I am not busy with fashions or with groups. I always go my own way, and I create out of necessity. And not for the market. 

What was it like exhibiting your artwork in the Louvre, where, for example, Rembrandt’s paintings served as a backdrop for your work?

Like I said, I am a dwarf born in a country of giants. It was an exercise in modesty.

Why was this task necessary for you?

Because it was the first time that contemporary art was invited to the Louvre. It was a big challenge. And now I just finished a big show at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. It was good. One million sixty thousand people came to see the exhibition. And I must say that Russians are even more open than the French. In Russia I could do much more. 

And yet, Jan Fabre: Knight of Despair / Warrior of Beauty, which made use of stuffed animals in the installations, caused an uproar in Russia. There were even calls for the exhibition to be closed and the director of the Hermitage to be fired.

Because people are stupid. I am a big animal lover. I think animals are the best doctors and  philosophers in the world. Most of the stuffed dogs in this exhibition were found on highways. People love animals until summer. And then they abandon them on a highway, where they end up getting killed. So this installation, which was shown in Saint Petersburg and Geneva, is essentially a kind of a homage to these animals, too. And I don’t see the reason why the people protest.

Listen, 1992. Size: 17,3 cm x 10,1 cm x 13,4 cm. Techn: Glass, Bic Ink, Human Bones, Plaster. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

Is the controversial aspect...

Why is it controversial that you try to defend something woundable like animals?

No, I wanted to ask something else. There’s even a separate paragraph in the Wikipedia entry on you titled “Controversy”. It mentions the scandal linked to the concept you offered for the Athens Festival, the exhibition in Saint Petersburg, etc. Is that all just the media’s reaction and has nothing to do with the truth? Or are provocative projects one of your instruments as an artist?

I think it’s the media. I never create to be controversial or to shock people. I create out of necessity and not out of curiosity. It’s the media, and they make things bigger then they are.

One characteristic of your work is large-format projects. When I once asked French artist Bernar Venet why he feels the needs to work on such a gigantic scale, he said that for him, heroism is an essential aspect of the creative process. Why do you feel this need to work in a large format?

There is, as an artist, this sense that you have to be a hero. Because actually you’re always a loser. I am the emperor of loss.

We already touched on this before, but I’d like to return to the theme of materiality in art. This time in relation to the title of the exhibition Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977–2017.

As I said before, it’s not only about material; it’s about materia.

You’ve used your own blood in your work...

Yes. Since 1977, every year I’ve been making a couple of drawings with my own blood. And since the 1980s I’ve been making drawings with my own tears. And since the 1990s I’ve also been making drawings with my semen. It’s an ongoing project of research.

Planet I-IX (2011). Size: 9 objects, each 58 cm x 32 cm. Techn: Murano Glass, Bic Ink, Stainless Steel. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

Why do you do it? To make your art more personal? What is so important about using fluids from your own body?

These drawings are also a kind of scientific social project. I think that in my work over the past 40 years the main subject and object is the human body. I have researched blood, semen, tears, the skeleton, skin, the brain... For example, I discovered that there are different types of tears. You get irritation tears from peeling onions, emotional tears when somebody is dying or you break up with a lover, and then there are spiritual tears, for example, when you hear a piece of music or you look at a painting. I discovered that spiritual tears contain the most salt. Irritation tears have no salt at all.

Do you believe in reincarnation as well?

I believe that... There is what some people call the soul, but I’m sure there’s a kind of energy that leaves your body when you die. When my father died, I saw him immediately after he had died. He became a sculpture. A cold, very beautiful sculpture. And at the same time there was no spirit inside, no energy inside anymore.

You use a number of ritual objects in your art. Is an artist a little like a shaman?

I am a contemporary mystic. I believe in the idea of deep spiritual happiness by creation and by sharing.

You once said that the human soul hasn't changed much since medieval times. Is this true?

Yes, I think so. 

Since last year your bronze sculpture The man who bears the cross has been located in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, where it is the only work of contemporary art. You’ve often said that you do not believe in God.

I am an atheist, thanks be to God.

Yes, but is the church as an institution still necessary in the 21st century?

I think that it’s an important place to go to contemplate. You don't have to be a Catholic to understand the contemplations of the church, its spirituality. Of course, I often go to churches to see masterpieces of art, because the most important churches have the most brilliant painters. Like in Antwerp the masterpieces by Rubens, or in Spain they have fantastic paintings by Goya. So, for that reason I go to church. And the church is also a beautiful ritual. The idea of the church or Catholicism or Christ – it’s a beautiful concept. Maybe sometimes it’s dogma, but idea itself – to turn the other cheek – is a beautiful concept, I think. I believe in the example set by Christ. Even though I’m not a Catholic myself.

The Catacombs of the Dead Street Dogs (2009-2017). Size: variable dimensions. Techn: Murano Glass, Skeletons of Dogs, Stainless Steel. Photographer: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

But a person can just as well contemplate and meditate, for example, in nature.

Yes, that’s true. But look around. It's... You’re in cities, where it’s all about publicity. There aren’t so many places anymore that are not polluted by publicity, by capitalism, by the rules of the power of money. There are not so many places like this in the world anymore. And I think the church is one of these places.

Returning to the cathedral in Antwerp, to be honest, when the bishop came to me, I immediately said to him that I’m not Catholic. But he said to me, “Mister Fabre, we want to be an institution that is open for all religions and all beliefs.” And I think it’s very important to have a bishop like that. I think I support this. And that was the first time in a long time that the cathedral acquired a work of art. I think I was their first artist after Rubens! It was also a pleasant feeling. And besides, Antwerp is my city, the place I was born. 

Your 2015 performance Mount Olympus. To glorify the cult of tragedy, a 24-hour performance, was recently shown in Amsterdam. Why do you need something that lasts for 24 hours, and is it important for you that the viewers stay there until the very end?

No, they are free to come and go. I prepared for this piece for six years, and then we had twelve months of rehearsals with forty people every day. That’s almost impossible in this world, which is driven by “quick, quick, quick”. Where exhibitions are made in six or eight weeks and are then ready for the opening. Just the fact that you dare to do it differently and work with a team of forty people for twelve months – that’s a kind of political choice. To put on a 24-hour theatre performance, the theatreitself needs to be open for 24 hours, and it needs to deal with every detail, like reaching an agreement with the unions, who protest things like that. I might have abandoned it all, if only... Two years ago when I created the world premiere of Mount Olympus. To glorify the cult of tragedy in Berlin, I was sitting with my actors and dancers in a café two days before the premiere, and they asked me, “How many viewers do you think will stay until the end?” I answered them, “It will be like in the 1980s, when if 50 people stay, I will be happy.” But what happened in Berlin? People stayed for 24 hours, and we had a standing ovation for 43 minutes. And we just did it in Amsterdam, and there, too, people applauded for 47 minutes.

As you know, it's all about the Greek tragedies, and it’s a study about catharsis, too. Catharsis still exists as a phenomenon. Because you feel that the people in the space relive things along with the performance on stage. And it’s also a fact of time that the analytical masks fall away and everything becomes emotionally directed inside of you. That’s the way the audience also reacts. People in the audience cry, laugh...

Detail of Planet I-IX, 2011. Size: 9 objects, each 58 x 32 cm. Techn: Murano Glass, Bic Ink, Stainless Steel. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

Right now you’re working on a new production, which will open in two months.

Yes, now I’m preparing a new creation for this summer in Vienna, and the world premiere is on the 18th of July, at ImPulsTanz - International Dance Festival. This piece is called Belgian Rules/Belgium Rules. I have been busy for six months on this project. It’s a kind of critical homage to my country. To this small, weird, “Monty Python-ing” country that Belgium is. But I’m enjoying myself a lot. It’s exiting. Belgian Rules/Belgium Rules is about Belgium. Belgium, which is as Catholic a country as Italy, has got a lot of carnival, which has been a very colourful event in Belgium since the 12th, 13th, 14th century. It’s got classical painting, from van Eyck, van Dyck and Rubens all the way to James Ensor and Khnopff. It’s got pommes frites and beer, which the monks still make. (laughs)

Belgian Rules/Belgian Rules is also about Congo, about the bad things we Belgians did in Congo. Why? Because I live in a country that is quite divided at this moment, because on the Flemish side there are a lot of people on the extreme right. And they want to break up the country, they want to be independent Flanders. In a way, this project is a political act against all these extreme-right movements in the country.

But you are Flemish yourself, aren't you?


A Flemish person who does not support the Flemish national movement and independence from Belgium?

Yes, I’ve been on the blacklist of those extreme-right people for already twenty years. A year ago I was beaten up by six people from the extreme right.

Do you, as an artist, feel a duty to become involved in political and social processes, to express your views?

Of course, you have to open your mouth. For me it’s unbelievable that in Europe – also in the Netherlands and in France – people have obviously forgotten that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic way. People sometimes have short memories. And of course, it’s dangerous what is happening in Europe now, and we have to open our minds before it’s too late. I think we [artists] have to support society in not going too much in that direction.

Front: Canoe, 1991. Behind from left to right: Double-Edged Axe, 1991. Pick-Axe (Small), 1991. Pick, 1991. Pick-Axe (Large), 1991. Detail of Da un’ altra Faccia del Tempo, 1988. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

What do you think about social art projects, for example, Olafur Eliasson's Green Light project with refugees at the Central Pavilion of the Venice Biennale?

I haven’t seen it. In 1991 I created Canoe, a work that can be seen at this exhibition and which has now, 27 years later, acquired a completely different political dimension. At the core of Canoe is an original canoe boat from Belgian Congo that is located in the Brussels Museums. And the hands holding the oars are those of my friends: a Congolese artist living in Antwerp, a guy who lives in Afghanistan, an artist from Bulgaria, from Morocco, from Turkey. Today this work of art is like a commentary on the current refugee problem. But I would not make a work about refugees now, because everybody is doing it. It’s really annoying.

How do you manage to put soul into your artwork? It is precisely the presence of your own energy that is one of the important aspects of your art. How do you do it?

I still do a lot of my work by myself. I like cutting things, glazing things. I still like doing these things. The erotic relationship with the material.

How many assistants do you have?

Four. And Damien Hirst has 23. He’s a friend of mine. I know him quite well.

It’s a paradoxical coincidence, in a way. Your Glass and Bone Sculptures 1977 - 2017 exhibition in Venice is being shown at the Abbazia di San Gregorio, while Hirst’s Wreck of the Unbelievable is being shown right across from it, at the Punta della Dogana, on the other side of the Santa Maria della Salute church...

His exhibition is about the British Empire. About money, power, glorification. And this exhibition is more Belgian. I mean, the British – they were ruling the world. For centuries. We Belgians were occupied by the French, by the Germans, by the Dutch, by the Spanish... And you can also see it in our art, the fact that we’ve always been occupied. Look at British painting, and it’s a qualification of power. Look at the Flemish painting, and it’s a glorification of the human being. It’s about drinking, dancing.

It’s nice.

It’s life. It’s the difference between Damien's work and my work.

I know it’s maybe a delicate question, but I’m interested in whether you’re able to believe the story that Hirst has built up around his exhibition with its undeniable breadth and perfection of details.

I think he’s a good artist and an intelligent artist. I like the concept of the show very much. There is strong work inside. But... it’s like what I’m saying. He’s a British artist from the British tradition. You think and you act in a different way when you’re British. Or when you’re a Belgian artist. Do you understand? 

Does that mean that art still has a nationality in this globalised world of ours?

You know, I’m a very provincial artist. I’m not joking. And maybe for that reason I’m a little bit universal. I don’t have the disease of internationalness. 

Every artist has his masterpieces. Which of your pieces would you consider your masterpieces?

The one I still have to make.

You once said that beauty is really important for you.

But beauty not only as an aesthetic principle, as makeup. I see beauty as a consilience between ethical values and aesthetic principles. 

But how do you feel in an era in which the defining characteristic is more likely ugliness instead of beauty?

That’s the reason why I’m an artist from the Middle Ages. I’m not a contemporary artist. No. A lot of contemporary art is cynical. A lot of contemporary art uses the language of the power of  economics, of the power of publicity. That’s what Damien is doing – he’s playing with this idea of capitalism and money. And that’s totally not in my work. I’m completely different. It’s a choice.

Detail of Da un’ altra Faccia del Tempo, 1988. Size: 587,2 cm x 66,2 cm x 4,8 cm. Techn: glass, Human Bones, Bic Ink. Photo: Pat Verbruggen. Copyright: Angelos bvba

Over the years, you’ve regularly shown your artwork in Venice. Why?

The first time was in 1984, at the Belgian Pavilion. I was 23 years old. It was very funny, because I was invited to the international selection by Germano Celant for my The Power of Theatre Follies performance. And at the last moment the Belgians who saw this work quickly said, “Oh, you must also be in the Belgian Pavilion.” But in those days nobody came to the Belgian Pavilion. Everybody just passed by, because we had such a bad reputation. Because artists were usually chosen for political reasons. Twenty years later everything had changed. But it was a starting point. I mean, I was a young artist, and I sold some drawings to the Beaubourg, and I sold some drawings to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. And so it was fantastic. I was a little bit rich. I could survive. Now they’ve already invited me nine times. I’m always selected by the international commission. 

We started this conversation by talking about mortality and that everyone has his lifetime on this planet. Is it important for you what will happen with your artwork after you die?

I think time is the right judge about it, no? I think that I’ve made some work that will maybe survive time. Otherwise I might stop working tomorrow if I didn’t think this. But at the same time, you never know. As I said, time will be the judge. I hope that maybe in another two hundred years I can inspire other artists, like I got inspiration from artists before me. Which you never know.

Are you ready to devote your own skeleton to the art of the future?

I already made plans on paper with notaries four years ago. With drawings. I will create a work of art with my brain when I am dead, with my heart and with my skeleton. It’s all set.

And will it be your work of art?

Yes. With my body parts.

Like your final signature...

Yes. It’s creating work after my death. It’s like a testament.

But it sounds a little bit staged. Like some kind of theatre, or a performance...

No, they will be sculptures. I’ve made drawings on paper – what to do with my brain, what to do with my heart, with my skeleton.

But the act in itself is a kind of theatre...

I won’t be there anymore. (laughs

Do you still study things?

Yes, I study a lot. Especially science. 

Jan Fabre. Copyright: Angelos bvba. Photo: Stephan Vanfleteren

Maybe somewhere deep down it was your dream to become a scientist, not an artist?

Yes, but I was not intelligent enough. (laughs) Therefore I became an artist. 

You’re a passionate smoker. Have you wondered why you smoke?

I love to smoke. I love the sensation of the nicotine in my lungs. I like cigarettes. I like the burning of the paper of the cigarettes. I think it’s still very sexy to smoke.

But everyone says it’s unhealthy.

It’s not very healthy, no. But I checked myself out, because I still do a lot of sport, and I had bronchitis. My lungs are clean. Everything is working well. So I keep smoking.