SA artist who tied rooster to penis found guilty in France

2014-05-05 16:59

Paris – A South African performance artist who tied a live rooster to his penis during an impromptu open-air show near the Eiffel Tower has been found guilty of “sexual exhibitionism”, but the Paris court did not impose a sentence, prosecutors said.

Last September, Steven Cohen (51) danced on the tourist-filled Trocadéro plaza dressed in a corset, high heels, long red gloves and an elaborate feathered headdress with a rooster attached to his penis by a ribbon.

Against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, and under the amused and perplexed gaze of tourists, including a group of nuns, the spectacle lasted only a few moments before police arrested Cohen, dragging him across the plaza, rooster attached.

Cohen’s lawyer told Reuters she was “relieved”.

“This is a rather measured decision,” said lawyer Agnès Tricoire. “In my opinion, this case should never have gone to court.”

In a March interview with the Le Figaro daily, Cohen said authorities had “no understanding of what art is, what performance is”.

“If I'm found guilty ... I will see it as a failure of French justice,” said Cohen, who has lived in France for about 10 years.

Prosecutors had asked for a €1 000 (R14 500) fine.

Cohen is known for “interventions in the public realm”, according to his biography. Wearing an illuminated chandelier tutu, he once walked through a squatters’ camp in Joburg while it was being demolished.

The Paris piece was a reaction to an increasingly homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic world, Cohen told the newspaper.

“In showing the most intimate part of me, I’m saying: ‘I’m male, I’m Jewish, I’m queer, I’m white’,” he said.

He said the rooster, named Franck, was not harmed during the performance. The animal was chosen “because it’s the emblem of France”.

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