Gazing at Exhibit A: Interview with Brett Bailey
Anton Krueger

Brett Bailey recently toured a new work in Europe and South Africa, called The Exhibit Series (2010-2013). In different countries the work has appeared under different titles—Exhibit A and Exhibit B, while Exhibit C will be produced in 2014. These productions replicate and parody ethnographic spectacles of the nineteenth century, interrogating European colonial atrocities in Africa, as well as contemporary xeno-phobia. They consist of a series of installations housed in individual rooms that audi-ence members enter one by one. Inside these rooms one is confronted by beautifully arranged spectacles referencing historical atrocities committed in Namibia by German speaking peoples, as well as atrocities under the Belgian and French colonial regimes in the two Congos. The “exhibits” also include references to more recent incidents of European racism against migrants from Africa. The work has been both applauded and derided. In Berlin, for example, activists called it “a human zoo” and protested that this was “the wrong way to discuss a violent colonial history,” while others have called the work “haunting,” praising the production for its “dignity” and “beauty.”

The following interview is from a public discussion (transcribed by Nathanael Vlachos) that took place between Brett Bailey and Anton Krueger as part of a series called “Talking Arts” at Thinkfest, at the 2012 National Arts Festival held in Grahamstown, South Africa.

» download interview [pdf]

Exhibit B
Brett Bailey

» direct link to this video

» more on Exhibits A, B, and C (third world bunfight)

» clip about Exhibit A by journalism students at Rhodes University (YouTube)

Anton Krueger teaches performance studies and creative writing at Rhodes University. His research interests include questions around identity in contemporary South Africa and he has published numerous reviews, articles and book chapters on post-apartheid theatre. He is the author of Experiments in Freedom: Issues of Identity in New South African Drama (2010). Anton has also published creative writing in a range of genres, including Sunnyside Sal (novella, 2010), Shaggy (comedy monologues, written with Pravasan Pillay, 2011), and Everyday Anomalies (poetry, 2011).His plays have been performed in eight countries and have been nominated for numerous awards nationally and abroad. Five of his plays have been published by Playscripts (New York) and Stagescripts (London). Anton was a runner up for the Dalro Poetry prize for 2010, and Experiments in Freedom won the Rhodes Vice Chancellor’s Book award in the same year.

Brett Bailey is a South African playwright, designer, director, installation maker and the artistic director of Third World Bunfight. He has worked throughout South Africa, in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Haiti, the UK and Europe. His acclaimed iconoclastic dramas (e.g., Big Dada, Ipi Zombi?, iMumbo Jumbo and Orfeus) and performance installations (e.g., Blood Diamonds: Terminal and Exhibit A & B) interrogate the dynamics of the post-colonial world. His works have played across Europe, Australia and Africa, and have won several awards, including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007). He directed the opening show at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in Johannesburg (2009), and from 2006-2009 the opening shows at the Harare International Festival of the Arts. From 2008-2011 he was curator of South Africa’s only public arts festival, ‘Infecting the City’, in Cape Town.

Nathanael Vlachos is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University.

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