Educated at UC Berkeley in the seventies, in an academic context marked by the radical changes that took place in the sixties as a result of the convergence of structuralism, psychoanalysis, semiotics and media theory, Judith Barry (Columbus, 1954) went on to develop an artistic practice that is closely linked to research.
In her pieces, which have roots in performance and links to other disciplines, but are mainly presented as installations, theory is just as important as form, which is often based on a cumulative strategy. Through these interplays of overlapping ideas and images, Barry creates ambivalent spaces that highlight the tensions between conceptual coldness and sensual impulses.
In spite of a self-confessed lack of formal continuity, it is not difficult to understand Barry’s body of work as a whole, as a coherent evolution, thanks to recurring elements such as the treatment of space (urban, architectural, personal) and the use of architecture as metaphor, which have been pivotal in much of her career.
In a kind of extension of Henri Lefebvre’s ideas on the social production of space, Barry often uses architecture as a means by which to make political, economic or gender conventions visible. In her work, complex networks of social relationships that resist representation become macrophysical structures that spectators can interact with almost intuitively.
In this process of reification, film plays a key role: Barry takes advantage of the almost universal nature of cinema and the familiarity of its language to transmit ideas, evoke sensations and create an interplay between the memories and experiences of spectators and the sound and visual stimuli of the piece.
'Echo' (1986) and 'In the Shadow of the City... Vam p r y' (1985), the two works by Barry in the MACBA Collection, are, in fact, good examples of this superimposition of audiovisual materials that favours the multiplicity of readings that is a characteristic of all her installations.
Barry’s non-linear compositions invite spectators to constantly change their viewpoint, and urge them towards critical analysis, to question their own position in respect to the work and their conceptual and narrative baggage.
In this dense fog of analogies, popular iconography, film culture and formal elements from advertising, Barry builds multi-stable structures: plays on perspective that are more ideological than visual, in which nothing is what it seems, and where the collision between images, sounds, signs and symbols can always be reinterpreted from another point of view.