Exhibit B cancelled again

2014-12-01 16:04

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Image: Brett Bailey

On Friday last week a performance of the controversial stage installation, on show in Paris in St. Denis’ Théâtre Gérard Philipe, was interrupted by a mob of more than 200 angry protesters who smashed through the glass theatre doors and demanded that the show be discontinued. A throng of 250 riot police managed to contain the mob of demonstrators who insisted that not one more person be allowed to view the “racist” production.

Of the 18 performances scheduled for Paris only two have been able to exhibit. The show puts together a mock museum exhibit of live black slaves from Europe and Africa’s colonial slave trade that also emulates exhibitions of live Africans in human zoos.

Earlier this year Exhibit B’s opening night and subsequent performances were forced to cancel at the Barbican Theatre in London after hundreds gathered to prevent the show being staged.

Bailey this week took to Facebook in anger: “The outrage against EXHIBIT B is misdirected. Why oh why wouldn’t these people attend the performance when we reached out to them time and again?”

He goes on to explain his anguish at the violence protesters are inflicting on the patrons of the exhibition: “This morning, in a video clip on an online forum, I watched close-up footage of protesters engaging in struggle with French ‘robocops’ outside last night’s performance of EXHIBIT B in St Denis, Paris. Someone fell. Someone was dragged away. The camera zoomed in on a splash of blood on the white paint of a road marking, and my blood ran cold. On Thursday night, during the premiere, five protesters breeched the barricades, smashed through the glass doors of the theatre lobby, and charged into the auditorium before they were intercepted. I watched the metal barriers being unloaded from trucks on Friday afternoon, dozens of them; I watched the battalions of black-clad riot police mustering; all with a sense of unreality. How is this possible? That a performance work that decries the brutal policing of Fortress Europe is relying on the machinery of its uniformed protectors?”

While the mostly black protesters continue to rage, South Africans have voiced their own dismay with the production that premiered in Grahamstown in July. Reams of columns have been written against and in support of Bailey’s show, with critics saying he is a privileged white male using black bodies as fodder. Many have come out in support of Bailey in the face of potential censorship. Commenting on his latest Facebook update, columnist Osiame Molefe tweeted that the director suffers from “a white-saviour industrial complex”.

Bailey confirmed to City Press that Exhibit B will continue on to its next location in Paris, opening at Le 104 in Paris this weekend before heading to Santiago in Chile in January.

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