Not racist, but a problem

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I welcome the discussion in the pages of Socialist Review about the Exhibit B controversy. I don’t think it is right to call the exhibition racist, but I still signed the petition to cancel the exhibition as I believed that showing Exhibit B at the Barbican would help to reinforce racism.

Brett Bailey said about the protesters, “Many of them are protesting because they are fed up with being second class citizens, fed up with institutionalised racism.” True. But he goes on to say, “I don’t want to live in a society in which we silence ourselves in response to every politically correct outcry; in which artists are struck dumb by self-righteous mobs.”

Bailey seems to view his art as detached from wider society, which art can never be. He said that he wished photographs of Exhibit B hadn’t been published. But this is not possible – the Barbican is a money-making institution; it was inevitable that the photos would be circulated widely and generate controversy.