Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
Brett Bailey, whose latest piece, “Exhibit B,” was aggressively shut down by London protestors, responds here. Upon hearing that it had been so poorly received in London, I was worried that the artist’s intention to mediate a social dialogue would be lost. The show had successfully toured 12 cities, but upon arriving to London protestors blocked the entrance and officials had to cancel the show b/c they feared they could not keep the 100+ performers safe.
Fortunately, the artist did not let the closing of his show silence his objective. Bailey eloquently defends his art piece claiming his intention was not to offend, but he understands that he works “in difficult and contested territory that is fraught with deep pain, anger and hatred.” He continues by saying, “There are no clear paths through this territory,and it is littered with landmines.” He understands why people are upset, but claims it is no excuse for his work to be censored.
I hope the dialogue continues further. Bailey claims to have testimonies from many of the 150 African-American performers involved. I would love for him to have some published. Not only would it offer an intimate view of the production process necessary for such a sensitive work, but it would give a perspective on the piece from a black man/woman. Bailey’s biggest downfall in producing this piece is that he’s white. Some protestors readily assume he’s racist, but Bailey insists that Exhibit B is his way of speaking out against racism.
Bailey sums up the article very well and I’ll quote him to sum up my own. “Do any of us really want to live in a society in which expression is suppressed, banned, silenced, denied a platform? My work has been shut down today, whose will be closed down tomorrow?”