Brett Bailey Still Life ‘painting’ of male slave in Dutch slave colony of Surinaam, 2014.
Photo : courtesy of the artist

Humans on Display: A Subject Almost Like the Others

Nathalie Desmet
In the art world, the term “live” is generally associated with the performing arts. We speak of live shows or performance art, without the question of “live” — as such — being central. In its adjectival form, the word refers to all organisms endowed with life and could, more generally, fall under the jurisdiction of issues related to their propriety.

In modern times, art seems to have carved out an autonomous space in which impunity 1 1 - See Jacques Soulillou, L’impunité de l’art (Paris: Seuil, 1995). from the common law is the rule — implying both a form of non-accountability and a permanent transgression 2 2 - See Nathalie Heinich, Le triple jeu de l’art contemporain. Sociologie des arts plastiques (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1998). of the law. Such an exemption for the aesthetic field would render null and void the question of accountability in art, but can an artist’s lack of accountability extend to the live exhibition? This question is broached in interesting ways by contemporary artists who have chosen to exhibit other human beings.

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This article also appears in the issue 87 – The Living - The Living

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