BLACK ACTIVISTS RISING AGAINST CUTS (BARAC) UK PRESS RELEASEHuman Zoo Barbican controversy comes to Liverpool
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK has teamed up with the International Slavery Museum, PCS union and MCARF (Merseyside Coalition against Racism and Fascism) to reopen the debate that arose in London around the Barbican’s Human Zoo exhibition & institutional racism in the arts & culture sectors . The debate is taking place in the International Slavery Museum, Albert Dock on Monday 27 October at 5.30pm and is part of the museum's Black History Month programme.
The Barbican exhibition, in which white South African artist Brett Bailey, featured live black performers shackled and in cages charged visitors £20 to enter. Despite claiming to be a piece of art challenging prejudice and racism, the work created a huge controversy in the art world and black and anti-racist campaign groups including BARAC UK objected to the exhibition and their campaign forced the Barbican to cancel the show. The controversy generated debates around institutional racism, the role of art and the meaning of art censorship.
Zita Holbourne, national co-chair of BARAC and a member of the PCS National Executive Committee, will be one of the speakers as a leading campaigner against the exhibition. She says: “The protest that led to the cancellation of the Barbican’s Human Zoo exhibition was not anti-art – it was anti-racist. It is not black communities that censor art, rather arts institutions that censor black artists. As an artist I am passionate about art, but I don't believe that the rights of a piece of art should be placed above the rights of people to equality, humanity & dignity ”.
The debate will be chaired by Dr Richard Benjamin, the Director of the International Slavery Museum, and will be joined by councillor Anna Rothery and Professor David Peimer, author and professor at Edge Hill University. Dr Benjamin says: “For me there is nothing more important than the culture sector being subject to such scrutiny. The International Slavery Museum has a very clear ethos, we are a campaigning museum and as such use the museum and its content to challenge views/actions/ideologies that persist today.”
PCS union has been at the forefront of highlighting how budget cuts are impacting on local communities and workplaces, including the museums themselves. Clara Paillard, President of the PCS Culture Sector and union rep at the Liverpool museums said: “At a time when black communities are disproportionately impacted by job cuts and huge cuts are being made to arts funding it is becoming harder for black artists to find work and showcase their talents. Institutional racism means that black people are the first affected by local cuts in arts &culture budgets”.