An artist wants to unveil Cairo’s silenced voices — and her work has met Penn and West Philadelphia.
A new video and photographic installation exhibition entitled “... Cairo stories” by artist Judith Barry opened this Monday at the Slought, a gallery at 4017 Walnut Street that encourages the exchange of ideas and public dialogue about cultural and sociopolitical change in Philadelphia. The exhibition presents a selection of photographs, transcribed passages and videos based on over 215 interviews with women from various socioeconomic backgrounds in Cairo collected over a decade.
Barry’s project is part of a longer series called “Not reconciled” — an ongoing series of “as told to” stories from a variety of countries and cultures. The exhibition was formulated in collaboration with Penn’s departments of Cinema Studies, English and Fine Arts.
“It is the accretion of information and specificity of stories that are interesting,” Barry said of her work.
In 2003, Barry was invited by the Sharjah Art Foundation, Foundation Daniel Langlois, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and The American University in Cairo to formulate the series. Although the project was cancelled with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it was ultimately completed in 2011 at the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution.
Local women in Cairo aided Barry by providing her with cultural and social context to help her interpret the interview stories.
Taking account of Cairo’s cultural distinctions in both economic and social spheres, Barry wanted to paint a robust portrait of Cairo that “throws the notion of Cairo into question.”
The Slought gallery specifically created a projection and audio system to allow pedestrians to experience the exhibition from outside the gallery as well — the video footage will be projected onto the window so that it is visible and audible from the sidewalk.
Executive Director of the Slought Foundation and Penn lecturer of History of Art and English Aaron Levy noted the “sensitivity of thought” and the research that Barry put into this exhibition. Levy said that the project will take form through conversation, and its location in an area of academia and collaboration with academic departments will foster interest.
At the opening reception, Barry discussed her project with Columbia professor Alexander Alberro. Students from Penn attended the reception and shared their opinions on the exhibition.
“Her project is important in the way she offers a voice for what would typically be silenced by politics,” Penn History of Art Ph.D. student Iggy Cortez said.
The exhibition runs at Slought from Sept. 15 to Oct. 24, 2014.
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