I was pleased to show solidarity with a small but vociferous group of anti-racist arts activists who turned out in central London to call for a boycott of Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit B – Human Zoo’ installation project today.
Followers of this blog who’ve already read my earlier post about the Barbican Centre’s endorsement of this controversial ‘live performance’ initiative will know that I am currently one of more than 19,700 signatories (and counting!) to a petition calling for it to be boycotted during its London run, from 23rd – 27th September 2014.
The reasoning behind my stance – framed by prior research into the traumatic histories and legacies of 19th– and early 20th-century Euro-American ‘Human Zoos’ and ‘World’s Fairs’ – has already been detailed at length (here). However, what I will go further to add in this follow-up piece is to say … I fully respect the right of any person to express “artistic freedom” but, by the same token, I also expect a reciprocal awareness and acknowledgement of my right to publicly demonstrate my objections, especially if I believe the nature of that creative expression undermines the successful pursuit of more effective and appropriate anti-racist, educational pedagogies and practices in the UK’s arts and culture sector.
It felt right, and was also necessary, to be out on the street in numbers, distributing leaflets and voicing objections to Brett Bailey’s work being promoted by the Barbican (one of the capital’s most prestigious arts institutes). We made a point of standing at the West Wing entrance to the Corporation of London’s symbolic Guildhall and vocalised our opposition to this exploitative, insensitive, under-researched, poorly consulted and ill-informed ‘live performance’ project.
Further public activities opposing ‘Exhibit B’ are scheduled to take place in London in the run up to its launch on 23rd of September, and are detailed online at the campaign site http://boycotthumanzoouk.com/human-zoo-the-show-must-not-go-on/
Additional information: The coalition of campaigning organisations, and individual anti-racist activists, leading and supporting this campaign include:
- Sara (Sar’z) Myers – initiator and author of the Change.org petition
- BARAC UK (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts)
- LIGALI (Pan-African Human Rights Organisation, specifically working to challenge the misrepresentation of African people, culture and history in the British media)
- OBU (Organisation of Black Unity)
- OBV (Operation Black Vote)