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 difference between the colonial subject and the spectator; it is about the relationship between the two. It is about looking and being looked at. Both performer and spectator are contained within the frame.

Bailey in an interview with John O’Mahony of The Guardian:

“What interests me about human zoos,” he tells the group, “is the way people were objectified. Once you objectify people, you can do the most terrible things to them. But what we are doing here is nothing like these shows, where black people were brought from all over Africa and displayed in villages. I’m interested in the way these zoos legitimised colonial policies. But other than that, they are just a catalyst.”

Bailey’s “Blood on the Tarmac,” a response to the protests following the show’s opening in Paris, disseminated via Facebook on November 30, 2014:

In EXHIBIT B I investigate the way in which black people have been represented, objectified and dehumanized by racist systems in order to indoctrinate people; the way in which these racist systems continue to operate today, here in Europe; around the world.
I choose to portray black people in objectified form to demonstrate the violence of these systems. I opt to perform the work in utter silence, to emphasize how the voices of the colonized, the marginalized, the subjugated, are stifled.
I choose to depict some of the terrible atrocities of colonialism so as to expose the realities of what really went on during the so-called ‘civilization of Africa’ by Europe.
I choose not to represent the white perpetrators of these crimes directly, because white people have never been the dehumanized objects of such systematized racism.

The Performers’ Statement (“Is the ‘human zoo’ racist?” The Guardian 5 September 2014):

At first glance at the materials, it is easy to assume that we are nothing but objects, repeating the worst of the racist and dehumanising aspects of the human zoos referred to in the petition(s) to cancel the exhibition.
Standing, exhibited in this manner, we can state explicitly that we are not objects during the exhibition. We are human, even more so when performing.