...Cairo stories

A project by Judith Barry exploring the many different ways women negotiate ideological, cultural and economic conditions in Cairo


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Memory
  • Performance
  • Public culture


Aaron Levy


Ken Saylor, Gee Wesley, Bettina Escauriza, Stacy Petty


Fine Arts Department at the University of Pennsylvania, with the Spiegel Fund and Wilks Foundation; Penn Cinema Studies; Kaja Silverman/Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award; Lesley University College of Art and Design

Process initiated


Opens to public





4017 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

On the web



50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought is pleased to present ...Cairo stories, a video and photographic installation by Judith Barry, on display at Slought from September 15 to October 24, 2014. Please join us for an opening reception, as well as a conversation with the artist and Alexander Alberro (Columbia University), on Monday, September 15th, from 6:30pm-8:30pm.

...Cairo stories is based on more than 215 interviews conducted with women from many social and economic classes in Cairo between the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. The selection of stories featured in the installation chronicles the personal experiences of these women across 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 emotional integrity of each woman's story is the crux of this project. The original interviews were conducted in simultaneous translation to maintain fluidity and integrity of tone and meaning. Barry considers these interviews to be collaborations between her and the subjects, insofar as the translators and interviewees were active participants in both the narrative arc of their stories and the development of the project as a whole. The interviews were also vetted by a diverse group of Cairene women where the social and political contexts of each story were considered. Fifteen stories were chosen that are representative of the specific cultural milieu of Cairo, a milieu that differentiates Cairo and Egypt from other countries in the Middle East.

Two of the stories are first-hand accounts from those moments just as the revolution began in Tahrir Square. Since the heady days of the events at Tahrir in January 2011, the voice – and the right to vote or ability to speak out – has become a central concern in everyday life in Egypt. The position of women in the public, political, and private spheres is also at the forefront of these discussions. One reason English-speaking Egyptian actors were cast is that none of the women Barry interviewed would appear on camera; yet, all very much wanted their stories to be told.

Since the 1970s, feminists such as Hélène Cixous have also written about the continued importance of self-historicization 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.

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This project was co-commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE, Foundation Daniel Langlois, Montreal, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, NYC, and American University in Cairo, Egypt.

With thanks to Hoor Al-Qasimi, Livia Alexander, Rhea Anastas, Narat Arkadan, Negar Azimi, Scott Bailey, Heike Bachmann, Regine Basha, Eder Cetina, Dalia Basiouny, Ute Meta Bauer, Nadim Bawalsa, Mariam Bazeed, Amy Ben-Ezra, J. Cameron Brueckner, Daniel Biovin, Johanna Burton, Alex Chau, Ewan Clow, Suzanne Cotter, Catherine David, Meena Dimian, Luke Di Tomma, Daniel Edelman, Hannan Eldahry, Regaa Eldahry, Anne Ellegood, Mona El-Mousfy, Antoinette Elias, Nawal Es-Sabahi, Ruth Estevez, Rosamund Felsen, Timothy Ferris, Jean Fisher, Victoria Frings, Miriam Ghani, Mariam Habib, Hanan E. Kamal, Aleya Hamza, Daniel Koppich, Larissa Harris, Dan Hartnett, Randy Hudson, Ahd Kamel, Hanan Kamal E, Heba Khalilm Omar Kholeif, Lameece Issaq, Brian McKenna, Marwa Maziad, Leanne Mella, Julia Meltzer, Deborah Meister, Joe Monge, Carlos Moore, Sohrab Mohebbi, Susan Morris, Nimet Naguib, Fatima Negaran, Bettina Niedermann, Kareemeh O, Nagham Osman, Jack Persekian, Michelle Rafic, Dina Ramadan, Ayman Ramadan, Brad Rego, Betsy Reid, Sarah Rifky, Marrin Robbins, Lisa Rubenstein, Fred Ruckel, Karin Sachs, Ken Saylor, Nadine Selim, Maya Serhan, Beth Stryker, Dalia Suleiman, Lynn Taylor, Aida El Torie, Townhouse Gallery, William Wells, Brian Kuan Wood, Jack Young, Renate Wagner, Simon Weber, Wolke, Rasha Zamamiri, Kathy Zarur and especially the many women who generously shared their stories with me and the actors who brought their stories to life.

Judith Barry (1954, USA), studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a MA in Communication Arts, Computer Graphics, from the New York Institute of Technology in 1986. Currently, Judith Barry is Professor/Director of the MFA VA at Lesley University College of Art and Design, Cambridge, MA. She trained in architecture, art, literature, film theory and computer graphics and her work encompasses a number of disciplines including performance, installation, film and video, sculpture, photography, and new media. Barry has exhibited in many international contexts, including at Documenta XIII, Sharjah Biennial 10, Cairo Biennale 2001, Venice Biennale of Architecture 2000, Sao Paulo Biennale 1994, Nagoya Biennale 1993, Carnegie International 1992, Whitney Biennale 1987.

In 2000, Barry won the Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts and was awarded Best Pavilion at the Cairo Biennale. A major survey of her work was mounted at DA2 Salamanca, Spain, 2008 and Berardo Museum, Lisbon, 2010. Her work is represented in the collections of MoMA, Whitney Museum, DIA Foundation, Generali Foundation, Mumok, Centre Pompidou, La Caixa, MACBA, FRAC Lorraine, Goetz Collection, among many others.

Barry's ...Cairo stories is a continuation of Not reconciled, a series of 'as told to' stories the artist has 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.

"I consider that all projects involving other people are collaborations, even if they are not acknowledged as such. This project would not have been possible without the tremendous generosity and effort of many people, each of whom, in different ways, was a key collaborator in the truest sense of the word. While many do not want to be named, I want to underscore how important their contribution is.

My gratitude goes to the more than 215 women who generously shared their stories, to the numerous remarkable translators who were my interlocutors and advisors, to the many other friends who put me in touch with interesting and interested women in Cairo, to the talented actors who gave voice to these stories in English, Arabic and German, and to the casting agencies, crews, post production and staging companies who brought this project to life, and to the many friends who also contributed in so many other ways.

Additionally, I am also grateful to the foundations, institutions, exhibitions, and galleries who have and continue to support the project. This project is dedicated to all the women and men who are working to bring about progressive social change, not just in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA), but also around the world. As we all know from watching recent events unfold, poverty isn't what produces revolution, rather ­imagination, hopes and dreams do..."

— Judith Barry