Privileged white South African, Brett Bailey, artist, is outraged.
‘Exhibit B’ stages 12 tableaux vivants, each installation portraying a black performer, or native, being objectified by the “brutality…inflicted upon colonial subjects” uttering nuances about the “machinations of…racism and how they dehumanise all who are touched by them.” The show is only complete with a voyeuristic audience.
London’s Barbican has cancelled the show after protestors branded Bailey’s work racist, imploring demeaning connotations with the human body and race. Bluntly put, Bailey places black performers in cages to be ogled at. While the montage may comment on historical facts, it does nothing to appease the misconceptions.
Here, racism is solved with racism. Then again, perhaps this South African, “albeit on the side of privilege” is sincerely trying to make us revisit our pasts and question humanity, and thus shedding light on the present state of our world. Should we erect statues of soldiers killing, children suffering and Jews being executed too? Looks like Urban Outfitters got there first with their bloodstained Kent State University jumper, “eat less” and “depression” t-shirts.
Furthermore, Bailey states the artwork is “not about the cultural or anatomical difference between the colonial subject and the spectator; it is about the relationship between the two. It is about looking and being looked at.” Isn’t it at least partly about the 27 years he lived under a “detestable regime of racism – albeit on the side of privilege”?
Bailey is understanding and appreciative that creative work will always be interpreted differently.
Cancellation has, however, still brought publicity to the contradictory point he was making; success!
How is ‘Exhibit B’ not art?