Created from a collection of more than 200 interviews Judith Barry conducted with Cairene women between the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, …Cairo stories is a series of short video monologues. The selection of stories chronicles personal experiences of women from a variety of social and economic classes in Egypt and expands the artist’s concerns with notions of representation, history, subjectivity, and translation – particularly as these ideas circulate across cultures.
The original interviews were conducted in simultaneous translation to maintain fluidity and integrity of tone and meaning, and Barry considers them to be collaborations between her and the subjects. The vast source material was then ‘vetted’ by a diverse range of Cairene women. The emotional integrity of each woman’s story is the crux of this project; the translators and interviewees remained active participants in both the narrative arc of their stories and the development of the project. In the gallery, a selection of 15 narratives is performed by actors, highlighting that all stories, including those we tell ourselves, are ultimately fictions.
…Cairo stories is a continuation of Not reconciled, a series of ‘as told to’ stories Barry recorded in a variety of countries and cultures, and bears witness to the artist’s long-term interest in the strength and the political implications of the voice. Since the Egyptian revolution, the voice – and the right to vote or ability to speak out – has become a central concern in everyday life. The positions of women in the public, political – and private - spheres is also at the forefront of these discussions.
Since the 1970s, feminists such as Hélène Cixous have written about the continued importance of self-historicisation by women to “transform their history, to seize the occasion to speak”. This philosophic position of écriture féminine directly addresses the transformation of subjectivity and the contention of sanctioned identity. It is through both writing and foregrounding the female voice that …Cairo stories opens a space for embodying a new subjectivity.
Judith Barry works across architecture, performance, film/video, installation, sculpture, and photography. Recent solo exhibitions include “body without limits, 12 installations,” Berardo Museum, Lisbon (2010). Her work has appeared in numerous biennials including Berlin, São Paulo, Sharjah, Sydney, Venice, and the Whitney, among others. Group exhibitions include the ICA, London, MOCA, Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and CAMH, Houston (all 2012)