This is the first Blog I have written for The Vaults Team Blog. These opinions are indeed my own, but represent The Vaults involvement with Exhibit B. Those that know me, will know I’m always looking forward to the next event or show, with little time to look back and reflect on what has passed. This past week though has only been reflection and it is right that these reflections are offered as part of the debate.
I am the Director of The Vaults, leading our programming, business decisions and development. On the 23rd September though, as with all of our shows, I was the Duty Manager for the evening. The role of the Duty Manager is to manage the public, ensure the environment is safe for them and make judgement calls in difficult scenarios. It is a role I have nearly 5 years experience in.
I won’t take this moment to go into how the minutes between 18.25 - 18.32 unfolded, as this is a Police incident. I will say though that every adjective used by the Barbican and the performers of Exhibit B to describe the events are wholly accurate and well informed. When we are able to release the CCTV images, that will offer a truth of what happened.
The Vaults are greatly responsible for the closure of Exhibit B. With Police recommendation, my own experience of the protest and support from the Barbican, we decided to cancel the remainder of the run.
This week I have jostled with my decisions leading up to and on the 23rd September. However, every argument that is presented in the reams of social media, press and videos, leads me to an unwavering thought that no matter who is right or wrong, no harm should come to a person because of it. There was potential for harm that night, and the nights to come. If something had happened, this would rest on the shoulders of everyone involved with this project.
We couldn’t be more gutted and distraught about the cancellation of the show. It was a superb piece of art of the highest quality. The show, to me, felt like being in a beautiful museum, but the plaques turn your stomach and the intent gaze of the performer packs a punch that will make sure you don’t forget. This show needs the dramatic techniques it employs as it sets out to etch itself in your day-to-day thoughts. Whether you need to go through this is a decision you should be able to make for yourself.
When the Barbican approached us, it was an opportunity for The Vaults to associate itself with an international art power house. The Vaults has only been open since April 2013; this kind of association, collaboration and quality of work is intrinsic to our mission. When I told my colleague about the content of the show, she quickly put the flyer up on the wall next to her desk. She knew the importance of this show, having studied the history of “human zoos” at university, and her anticipation about the forthcoming show rubbed off on the rest of us.
I was fortunate enough to meet artist Brett Bailey on the 18th August. I’ve never met a man with such compassion and deep understanding of his subject. He was able to deliver his vision of the show in our space within the hour. He dashed through the building, feeling each moment. He talked me through the installations and I felt the power of the show instantly. At this time I understood the piece to be a representation of real life events and the chilling goosebumps that came with them.
I feel responsible for caving in to intimidation and violence, but refuse to allow these dangerous scenes to occur. This was the first night of five shows. It is with the unknown risk of escalation in mind, on recommendation from the Police, that The Vaults chose to close the remainder of the week.
Having read this blog, if you feel I have caused offence or are upset by it, I would like to meet with you and talk about it, talk about what happened from your perspective, talk about the future of Exhibit B and talk about how we, a small part in the arts community, programme in the future. There’s no comments section here, I would prefer to meet you instead.