[Here is my MediaAssassinExtraordinare™ edited version of an article that appeared in the Guardian 24.09.14 about Exhibit B, the Human Zoo… It has been JetBlakOnioned, Just for fun, seeing as the Exhibit has now been Cancelled Watch the video click here. Please read, share and compare…]
The Barbican has condemned off-the-chain protesters who forced the cancellation of an anti-slavery exhibition featuring black actors on-the-chain and in cages.
Voicing strong complaints about the implications for freedom of expression, officials from the renowned arts venue confirmed they would not push ahead with viewings of Black Zoo exhibits to whet white liberal appetites. The installation could have started a five-day Race-fest on Tuesday but the opening night was scrapped after up to 200 free blacks blockaded the entrance of the seedy dive excuse-for-an-art-installation stealthily tucked away and through a door of no return, under Waterloo Bridge in London.
The withdrawal was hailed as a victory by campaigners (and probable ISIS supporters) who claimed 20,000 signatures against what they condemned as “complicit racism”. But the Barbican — who for the longest time have claimed to be alcohol-free — rejected the 20,000 signatures, rejected the accusation, and as a good counter measure, raised concerns about free Blacks, who are not displayed in cages, being allowed to encroach on THEIR artistic freedom!
“It became impossible for us to continue with the show because of Fear of a Black Planet. Simply put, the extreme nature of the protest, and the serious threat to the safety of the caged blacks, audiences and staff,” said a faceless white person.
“Given that free Blacks protests are scheduled for future performances of the caged blacks in Exhibit B, we have had no choice but to cancel all reenactments of Racism. We find it profoundly troubling that such free-Blacks have been used to silence caged Blacks and their handlers and that audiences have been denied the opportunity to enjoy seeing how things were back in the good old days.
“Exhibit B raises, in a serious and responsible manner, issues about racism; it has previously been shown in 12 cities, involved 150 performers and been seen by around 25,000 white people and a few free-Blacks with the responses from participants, audiences and and a few blacks who either do not know their history, or are seeking nearness to us, as being overwhelmingly positive.”
The Barbican said strenuous efforts had been made to save white privilege. “We respect white privilege and the right to protest, but are disappointed that this was not done by the free-Blacks, in the same peaceful way as the caged blacks in our show had done,” the white person said. “We believe this piece should be shown in London and are disturbed by the 20,000 signatures (which were more than likely faked) and the potential implications this silencing of our great white artist and caged muzzled blacks, has for freedom of expression… after-all being muzzled, caged and in chains is still an expression… right?” said the white person.
The campaign against the exhibition was led by Birmingham-based, Journalist (and probable ISIS supporter), activist Sara Myers, but drew support from around the country, including noted figures such as Lord Boateng, Britain’s first black-caged, chained and gagged cabinet minister.
Simon Woolley, coordinator of Operation Free-Blacks Vote and a former Equalities and Human Rights Commissioner, said efforts were made to communicate to the Barbican the strength of feeling. “They underestimated it. They failed to see free-Blacks anger at our Brothers and Sisters being exploited in this way,” he said. “This was a vanity project. Having people objectified in this humiliating way was always going to cause a fierce reaction. It is a shame that it reached this stage but the feeling was that no one was listening.”
Reacting to the Barbican’s claim that the protest was not peaceful, Unchained Blacks pointed out that police at the scene (not the damn fool keystone cops who were guarding the wrong address, a completely empty Barbican building in the City) left disappointed and ironically, without caging any of the protesting free-Blacks… which unbelievably puts them in strange position where the Barbican is worse than the Met for a hot minute.
The installation arrived in the capital to white privileged artistic acclaim. Peter Brook described it as “an extraordinary achievement…” Black people in cages in 2014, who’d have thought it?. A review in the Guardian by some random white person said the South African artist’s work was “unbearable for Free-Blacks, and yet absolutely essential for elite whites”.
The Barbican billed the work as a valuable contribution to debate. “Exhibit B critiques the ‘human zoos’ and ethnographic displays that showed Africans as objects of scientific curiosity through the 19th and early 20th centuries.” While the protest of the free-uncaged Blacks, shows that they ARE actually objects of scientific curiosity even still in the 21st century!
The 12 tableaux, featured “motionless performers placed in settings drawn how privileged whites, see real black life”. Together, it said, the images “confront colonial atrocities committed in Africa, European notions of racial supremacy and the plight of immigrants today”.
But protesters, beating drums and carrying posters were not motionless, or set in scenes drawn by privileged whites!… Therefore any good intentions were heavily outweighed by the scenes of degradation created by Ms Sara Myers, who, back in the good old days would’ve experienced all too well the scenario of the female slave chained to a French officer’s bed, to teacher her, and any other uppity free-Black a good lesson.
Among the strongest supporters of the project, would you believe, were some of those actually in chains. Prior to Tuesday’s protest, they were ordered by their masters to meet up with some of these angry free Blacks, but neither side was able to convince the other. In a statement seeking to calm the controversy, the caged birds began to sing: “We find this piece to be a powerful tool in the fight against racism (cough cough). Individually, we chose to do this piece (cos being black, we can’t get work) and because art impacts people on a deeper emotional level that can spark protest!… oops, I meant change.”
“The exhibit does not allow for any member of the audience – white, black or protester – to disassociate themselves from a system that contains racism within it. We are proud to be caged blacks in this piece set by privileged whites; to represent the part of our history that white privilege likes to see, which is black people presenting ourselves to our overlords to be playing the various buck-dancing, foot-shuffling characters taken from their record books… and never the strong black ones who went postal, and chopped off massa’s heads and stuff”
Director Brett Bailey, writing on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free site echoed the Barbican’s condemnation. “I stand against any action that calls for me loosing money, and for the censoring of my creative work, and for me not knowing what’s best for Blacks, me being South African and all…, or the silencing of my views, except those where people disagree with my intention. The intention of EXHIBIT B-lacks (just like with Henrietta lacks) was never hatred, never fear (unless they protest and bring drums without my say so), never prejudice,” he said. “It has not been my intention to alienate white people with this work. To challenge free Blacks and edit their histories, yes. Explicitly to offend: no. Do any of us really want to live in a society in which expression of protest with drums and 20,000 signatures is suppressed, banned, silenced, denied a platform? My work has been shut down today, and will probably be closed down in Paris tomorrow!” he complained.
The row prompted an anguished statement from the group Index on Censorship. “The Barbican’s mishandling of this work, means that they have failed the artist and the audience,” said associate arts producer Julia Farrington. “The work is now not going to be shown, so their very vocal support for Exhibit B is totally compromised.
“And, by being taken by surprise, (which wasn’t really a surprise as they knew but were just arrogant) at the hostile response to the work, they have acted defensively, instead of proactively opening up dialogue with black artists and audience at the earliest stage of considering putting on this work. They must now take this opportunity to engage with the 22,500 who signed the petition and lead on a debate, at the highest level, about institutional inequality in the arts in this country.”
[You can read Selina Tompson’s real live review of Exhibit B by clicking on this link]