Judith Barry recently presented her work, Model for Stage and Screen (1987), in the Topologies of the Real, Techne Shenzhen 2023 exhibition at Techne Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art / Urban Planning, in Shenzhen, China. The exhibition ran from May 3 – July 23, 2023, and was curated by ZHANG Ga (Distinguished Professor; Director, CAFA Center for Art & Technology (CAFACAT); China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA)).

About Barry’s Model for Stage and Screen:

Light and fog are projected in a room in which two identical disks are suspended such that the viewer stands between them. Even though you can see precisely how this work functions, you are still subject to its (retinal) effects on your vision. As you leave the room, thinking you will regain control of your vision, you do not, instead, you see another color. This work demonstrates two of the many ways you cannot trust what you see as well as how you are not in control of your vision. In this sense, you become a projector.

The act of looking and the question of how we see were the genesis of Model for Stage and Screen. The structure, based in the precarity of 16th-century European anatomy theaters, also recalls cinema. Two mythical constructions about how ‘the gaze’ might be internalized are conjoined within an actual inhabitable space that leads out of the spectacle and into spectatorship. This ‘gaze’ is above all else privileged – before action, before decision.

These two constructs are suggestive of two acts where the desire to look and for the look to continue might cross the desire for an end to looking, and for something of its past to take its place.

One prior action is the insistence of the gaze of Orpheus as he descends into the underworld and transgresses by looking back at Eurydice, and where, at this moment of forgetting, what was once most longed for, is now irretrievably lost. The other is Oedipus, who only as newly blind is able reconcile the truth of the riddle he solved as the misrecognition of what he himself is.

So it is that these two moments cross each other: the Orphic moment – the impetus for looking; and the Oedipal –the moment of insight.




Topologies of the Real was conceived as a three-part exhibition under the rubrics of Reality Interrupted, The Return of the Real, and the Multiverse: Ecology without Nature. The exhibition examined the trajectories of how artistic imagination has challenged and redefined the notion of reality under the technological construct of space/time manifestly accelerated since the mid-twentieth century, and how such artistic endeavors have brought to light the political, economic, and cultural conundrums and creative potentialities implicated by a flattened and instantaneous digital contemporary.

The exhibition included over 120 works by more than 130 artists from the late nineteenth century to the present: from the early experimentalists and pioneering visionaries of modern art to seminal figures and emerging voices in contemporary art, unfolding the dynamically evolving Topologies of the Real in an attempt to grapple with the fundamental exigency of the notion of being in the digital now. This exhibition is the first major undertaking in mainland China that showcases current media art installations in relation to the history of art and technology.

For many of the works, it marked their first appearance in a Chinese museum. Artists included Jean Tinguely, Hans Haacke, Shigeko Kubota, Bruce Nauman, Wolf Vostel, Judith Barry, Zhang Peili, Carsten Nicolai, John Gerrad, Jenny Holzer, Pierre Huyghe, Trevor Paglen, Beryl Korot, Eduardo Kac, Ian Cheng, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Gretchen Bender among many others.