Judith Barry is an artist and writer whose research-based practice combines multiple disciplines and forms of artistic production to question technologies of representation. These include cinema/media, exhibition design, performance, architecture, sculpture, and photography. Her background in film history and critical theory, architecture and design, dance, and fine art influences the ultimate form of each project: there are some constants in her methodology particularly as they relate to her use of media including the language of cinema alongside her interrogation of form.
Judith Barry spatializes the language of cinema and media both as form and subject matter. Transforming exhibition spaces through installation into experiences, Barry uses media projection, built elements, and sculptural forms to produce inhabitable spatial constructions.
Casual Shopper, an early single channel video, utilizes montage – especially the language of the cut – to embolden a psychoanalytical understanding of desire as never sated, endlessly evolving, and always just beyond our reach. Set in a shopping mall, the main character, a female flaneuse, inhabits a contemporary Piranesian prison. As she moves, the space around her comes to life.
Barry has developed this spatialized theory of montage into a flexible language through her cinematic media installations. The installation structure and media projections create an art experience of media as a believable inhabitable space for the viewer/participant. Each work proceeds from a series of research questions. Both the form of the work and the content are derived from a spatialized analysis of the questions the work addresses. She sets what she calls ‘subject positions’ which viewers discover as they move through her installations.
For instance, the installations In the shadow of the City, and Echo make use of a deceptively simple trope: that movement is the lynchpin of the eye, and that as we physically inhabit an installation, and engage within it, we, as viewers, are making use of what film theorists call syntagmas – small moments of meaning. It is these small moments of meaning that allow us to engage with what we are seeing and produce our own meanings, hence these inhabitable spaces function as subject positions for each viewer. It is through the discovery of these inhabitable positions that the viewer has a unique experience with the work.
Her work has continued to explore the possibilities of media as it has become increasingly omni-present across a wide variety of formats. Her website showcases more than 50+ works in a variety of mediums including exhibition designs.
Her most recent installation, All the light that’s ours to see (2020), was recently on view in Lisbon. This work presents two cross-cutting narratives seemingly progressing towards an apex, only to be dislocated precisely in those moments which most promise security and comfort, and where the center no longer holds.
Other recent exhibitions include, …cairo stories, B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, Frankfurt, (2020), about documenta, (permanent installation) Kassel Museum, Kassel, (2019). Learn more about …cairo stories.
Judith Barry has exhibited at documenta, Kassel, several Venice Biennales of Art, and the Venice Biennale of Architecture, Whitney Biennial, NYC, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Sao Paolo Biennial, Brazil, Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Sharjah Biennial, UAE, 3rd International Biennale in Nagoya ARTEC ’93, Nagoya, Japan, Sydney Biennale, Australia, Biennial de la Dance, Lyon, and the Queens International, Queens, among many others. In 2001 she represented the US in the 8th International Cairo Biennale in Egypt.
A 12 installation survey, body without limits, traveled in Portugal and Spain, 2008 -2010. Scheduled to tour Germany and Belgium, it was cancelled due to the financial crisis. Her awards include the Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts, (2000), Best Pavilion and Audience Award, Cairo International Biennale (2001), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011).
Her publications include Public Fantasy, ICA , London (1991), Projections: mise en abyme, Presentation House, Vancouver (1997), The Study for Mirror and Garden, Museum Jose Guerrero, Granada, Spain (2003) and Judith Barry: body without limits, Domius Artium 2002, Salamanca, Spain (2009), and For when all that was read…so as not to be unknown, documenta 13, Kassel (2012). She has published essays and projects in numerous magazines and catalogs including October, Artforum, Art & Text, Assemblage, Mousse, Brooklyn Rail, Architect’s Newspaper, and many others.
Her work is in the collections of Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Whitney Museum, and Ford Foundation, New York City, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCASD), San Diego, Generali Foundation and Museum moderener Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Mumok), Vienna, Centre Pompidou and The Fonds National d’art Contemporian (Le FNAC), Paris, “Le Caixa” Collection of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), Barcelona, Sammlung Goetz Collection and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Frac Lorraine, Metz, France, Kadist Foundation, San Francisco/Paris, and The Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection (CIFO), Miami and Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), among others.
She has taught and lectured extensively in the USA, Asia, and Europe. Full-time teaching positions include VAP at MIT, Boston (2002-2003), and the Merz Akademie, Stuttgart, Germany (2003–2005). Currently, she is Professor | Director of the MFA VA Program at LUCAD in Cambridge, Massachusetts.