The Barbican has criticised anti-racism protesters after cancelling a controversial exhibition.
Exhibit B – The Human Zoo showed caged black actors dressed up as slaves to address the notion of Africans as “objects of scientific curiosity” throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
It was aiming to confront “colonial atrocities committed in Africa, European notions of racial supremacy and the plight of immigrants today”, however a petition calling on the London venue to scrap the installation garnered almost 23,000 signatures.
The Barbican said that an “extreme” demonstration outside the building worried organisers and gave cause for concern relating to the “safety of performers, audiences and staff”. However they said they found the action of the protesters "profoundly troubling"
We find it profoundly troubling that such methods have been used to silence artists and performers and that audiences have been denied the opportunity to see this important work. Exhibit B raises, in a serious and responsible manner, issues about racism; it has previously been shown in 12 cities, involved 150 performers and been seen by around 25,000 people with the responses from participants, audiences and critics alike being overwhelmingly positive.
We believe this piece should be shown in London and are disturbed at the potential implications this silencing of artists and performers has for freedom of expression.”
The journalist and activist who started the campaign, Sara Myers, told i100 last month:
This was a reality for our black African ancestors. This is somebody’s pain. The ability to detach oneself from that comes from white privilege and supremacy.
She accused the Barbican of not listening to “the voices of the black community who are saying: this is offensive, this is racism”.
The event was due to begin this week, with tickets costing £20.
i100 has contacted Ms Myers for further comment.