Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
Bailey claims the human installation ‘seeks to subvert the disturbing nineteenth and twentieth-century human zoo phenomenon’.
‘Racist’ human zoo installation criticised by protesters outside the Barbican
“What is art and who is qualified to tell it”– Is the last comment BBC news reporter makes after discussing Exhibition B: ‘Human Zoo” at the Barbican Centre in the UK.
She raises an interesting question; one that we as arts managers will likely face time and time again while programing exhibitions, plays, musicals, concerts etc..
The particular exhibition under discussion here, created by the South African artists Bret Baily, was intended to critique the ‘human zoo’ phenomenon of the 19th and 20th century. His work is highly controversial and disturbing. And while the artist’s intent was to “empower rather than exploit”, his human installation successfully created outrage among viewers in the UK and beyond. In fact change.org has created a plea for the withdrawal of his traveling human exhibition now garners more than 22,000 signatures.
Many people have begun to label the artists as white racist, while one of the hired african performers says “Exhibit B has changed my life! Not only has it educated me, but it also gave me the chance to educate others,”- Rania Modi, a performer in the show, unrelated to the image.
This exhibition and the public reaction pose some interesting questions for us.
How would you as an arts manager deal with such a highly sensitive and uncomfortable situation? On the one hand we want art to be provocative and make people think…on the other we want to avoid these type of uncomfortable and not politically correct situations. Or do we..? What makes art art and what makes it not art? Who decided where the line is between the two and how did they know where to place it?
What do you guys think of situation and what can we learn from this situation?
*** Side note: I am not a fan of this particular exhibition.