Brett Bailey is a white South African theatre-maker/ artist who works mostly in performance. His most recent piece 'Exhibit B' is inspired by the 19th Century phenomenon of human zoos in Europe and America. It has caused a huge amount of controversy.
About the work Bailey says "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." and also "It is a piece about humanity; about a system of dehumanisation that affects everybody within society, regardless of skin colour, ethnic or cultural background, that scours the humanity from the 'looker' and the 'looked at'."
In the Guardian the show was written about "On arrival, at the first tableau, most people don’t even recognise that human beings are standing there. For a moment, particularly for the first few, they are objects. Then, the eyes meet. In that moment when their eyes meet, they cease to be objectified and become human. Some people literally jump back. Some break into tears; others immediately look away. Others still gaze deeper as their eyes well up. "
Sara Myers the leader of the online change.org petition to stop the Barbican from showing the work said "We have come a long way since the days of the grotesque human zoo - we should not be taking steps back now."
An actor from the peice also said "How do you know we are not entertaining people the same way the human zoos did?" The petion was signed by 22,988 people and the Barbican cancelled the show.
I don't know what I think. On the one hand I think that is important not to forget that these terribke things did happen, and in some cases are still happening (the show features mostly historical tablesaus as well as a few modern day scenes of racism). However...if people felt that they were being discriminated against and that the work was racist then the artist has failed. I am interested in this work mostly becaue of the issue of making work for a community that yopu are removed from. Bailey is white. In the same way that I am not visually imparied or disabled.
The question this peice raises for me, is - How can I made work that is non-visual, tactile, accessible. Work that is for the blind, partically sighted and those with other sensory disabilities without alienating them further? I would hate to make something that became just for the minority; therefore making them feel excluded further.
Sometimes I write poems and recently I have been wanting to write more. However I find sharing my poems really difficult, usually I either leave them in my little book, or sometimes I post them here; but I never say that they are mine, or make any effort for people to read them.
I wonder what it is about a poem that makes it so hard to share. I love sharing my thoughts - my feelings - through my art work and through this blog. There is something about a poem that feels...more...somehow. More me, more personal. I suppose it's because in a piece of art the meaning can be hidden, while in a poem the words are right there - for the reading.
In my FFAF work I included a poem I had written...however I wrote it in braille, so that the majority of people ever likely to see that piece will not be able to read it.
I've decided to add a poems page to my art projects and am going to make an effort to share some of my work there...because I am pleased with the things I write, they mean something to me and I don't want to lose them.
Despite the fact that we applied for a FFAF space in June I didn't do much more than think until we started back at uni, so two weeks before we were due to set up...I didn't have much to show! I knew I wanted to continue to explore how art can be made in a way that is not purely visual and can be experienced in the same way ( or perhaps better) whether you can see it or not. I decided to make these five non-visual paintings.
1- Hard stuff is a braille poem I wrote that explores my feelings around accessibility and explaining my work
2- ART IS FOR YOU is also braille.
3- Cats is sandpaper painted black. It is my favourite piece and I think the one that feels least like how it looks.
4- Untitled four is just feathers, the feedback I got for this was the best. Many people sais they imagined they were feeling dead birds when they placed their hands into it.
5- Untitled five is my least favourite. I wish I had stopped at four but I felt that five would look better and rushed this one.
I am planning to continue with these themes throughout my research.
Last week I went to Liverpool with my Dad to visit the Biennial exhibitions. We went to the Old Blind School, the Walker Gallery and the World Museum. I am planning to go back again some time in the next two weeks to visit the Tate Liverpool and the Bluecoat.