The following article written by art historian Yvette Greslé presents a very detailed, beautifully written and carefully considered critique of Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit B’ project – which also (in turn) cites curator and academic Okwui Enwezor’s well-informed words of wisdom: “Despite the sincerity of the artists who have brazenly maintained a relationship in their work with the black body, there is a certain over-determination that accompanies their gestures. They seem to neglect the fact that the black form is as much a grotesque bearer of traumatised experiences as it is the abject vessel of race as a point of differentiation. More than alerting us to how the stereotype fixes its objects of desire in that freeze-frame of realism, as prior knowledge, the work of these artists exacerbates the stereotype by replaying it, perhaps unconsciously, as if it had always been factual.”…
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.
Anyone who saw the Guardian’s recent Edinburgh Festival review of Brett Bailey’s controversial installation ‘Exhibit B’ – featuring African men and women sitting inside cages, with labels stating “The blacks have been fed”, and others chained to chairs and beds in equally dehumanizing poses (seemingly to challenge audiences to reflect on the brutalities of European racism throughout the colonial era, and to specifically critique the violent practices and enduring legacies of the 19th century “human zoos”) – might be interested in the online petition that has been established to oppose and boycott its forthcoming display at the Barbican Centre in London (23rd – 27th September 2014).
The petition’s organiser is Sara (Sar’z) Myers, and full details about why she and hundreds of supporters consider Bailey’s project to be a racist exhibition can be viewed online at https://www.change.org/p/sir-nicholas-kenyon-withdraw-the-racist-exhibition-exhibit-b-the-human-zoo-from-showing-at-the-barbican-from-23rd-27th-september