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 on Monday of “sexual exhibitionism,” but the Paris court did not impose a sentence, prosecutors said.
Last September Steven Cohen danced on the tourist-filled Trocadero Plaza dressed in a corset, high heels, long red gloves and an elaborate feathered headdress with a rooster attached to his penis by a ribbon.
Against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, and under the amused and perplexed gaze of tourists, including a group of nuns, the spectacle lasted only a few moments before police arrested Cohen, dragging him across the plaza, rooster attached.
Cohen’s lawyer told Reuters she was “relieved.”
“This is a rather measured decision,” said lawyer Agnès Tricoire. “In my opinion, this case should never have gone to court.”
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,” said Cohen, who has lived in France for about 10 years.
Prosecutors had asked for a 1,000-euro ($1,400) fine.
Cohen is known for “interventions in the public realm”, according to his biography. 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 and anti-Semitic world, Cohen told the newspaper.
“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.
He said the rooster, named Franck, was not harmed during the performance. The animal was chosen “because it’s the emblem of France.”