Yesterday, in Paris, a South African performance artist who tied a live rooster to his penis during an impromptu open-air show near the Eiffel Tower was found guilty of “sexual exhibitionism”, but the court court did not impose a sentence.
Last September Steven Cohen, a less-than shy & retiring soul, danced on the tourist-filled Trocadero Plaza dressed in a corset, high heels, long red gloves & an elaborate feathered headdress with a rooster attached to his penis by a ribbon.
Against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, and under the somewhat stunned gaze of tourists, including a group of Japanese nuns, the spectacle lasted only a few moments before police arrested Cohen, dragging him across the plaza by the
“This is a rather measured decision by the court,” said lawyer Agnès Tricoire. “In my opinion, this case should never have been prosecuted.” She went to say that she was “relieved” by the absence of any punishment or legal sanction. Prosecutors had asked for a 1,000-euro ($1,400) fine.
Back in a March interview with Le Figaro daily, Cohen said authorities had “no understanding of what art is, what performance is. If I’m found guilty I will see it as a failure of French justice.”
Cohen has lived in France for about 10 years & is known for “interventions in the public realm”. Wearing an illuminated chandelier tutu, he once walked through a squatters’ camp in Johannesburg while it was being demolished.
The Paris piece was a reaction to an increasingly homophobic, xenophobic & anti-Semitic world, Cohen claimed. “In showing the most intimate part of me, I’m saying: I’m male, I’m Jewish, I’m queer, I’m white,” he said. (Well that ticks most of the boxes on the Paris art scene.)
He said the rooster, named Franck, was not harmed during the performance. The animal was chosen “because it’s the emblem of France”.
Suffering for someone else’s art – poor Franck.