The book’s introduction analyzes Brett Bailey’s touring performance art piece entitled ‘Exhibit B’ (2013−15) and the controversies it generated in European cities to introduce the book’s larger theoretical framework on the intersection between race, the gaze, and display. It defines the book’s central notion of ‘institutionalized spectacularism’ and outlines four arenas in which this ‘culture of looking’ manifests itself in contemporary France: historical, socio-political, cultural, and disciplinary. Far from hermetic and completely independent, these different iterations of institutionalized spectacularsim constantly inform one another. What unites them are common gazing dynamics: racial and ethnic alterity is approached as an object on display, while the underlying structures legitimizing the spectator’s gaze evades inquiry. Race on Display in 20th- and 21st-Century France, then, like the works it studies, suggests that to combat racist stereotypes that persist in the postcolonial moment requires exposing and subsequently interrogating the ways of looking underpinning them.

Brett Bailey and the Performers’ Stance

Bailey’s response, “Yes, Exhibit B is challenging-but I never sought to alienate or offend,” published in The Guardian on September 24, 2014, after the show was shut down in London. The listed components of each installation includes spectators – it is only complete with an audience. The installation is not about the cultural or anatomical […]

The Contre Exhibit B Paris Protest

Led by musician Bams, the “Contre Exhibit B” protest movement shut down the show in Paris. Read their stance, calls to action, and the articles about the movement on Contre Exhibit B’s Facebook page.

Select News Media Coverage of Exhibit B

* Featured image from article by Hugh Muir: “Barbican criticisms protesters who forced Exhibit B cancellation.” The Guardian. 24 September 2014. French-Language Media Coverage (chronologically): On its first tour in France (Avignon, 2013): Thibaudaut, J.-P. “Avignon: troublants tableaux vivants avec Noirs sur fond blanc, par le Sud-Africain Brett Bailey.” Rue 89 Blog (NouvelObs). 14 July […]