Orla Barry .Portable Stones

05.02 until 24.04.2005

They leap from one thing to another, alternating between important facts and minor observations, between personal impressions, memories, poetry and imagined extracts. Her visual work – photos, films, text panels, etc. – reinforce the verbal aspect, adding a visual layer of meaning to it and creating a powerful tension between the two. It is up to the reader-viewer to tie up the loose ends, to link the words and images and so give meaning to her work. The two starting points for this exhibition are Barry’s new film Portable Stones (63 mins), which will be shown for the first time, and other new and revised works from her oeuvre. Barry has worked on the film Portable Stones since 2003, and shooting, partly in Ireland and partly in Belgium, took place in 2004. In it we see a girl leaving home and taking the train to an old cemetery where she decides to pitch her tent. While walking amongst the graves she starts to hear voices, voices that waft towards her from over the sea. She allows herself to be carried by the voices and their stories and thus travels in her thoughts to an island, where she listends to stories of a man who lived there. The actors do not speak, but we hear a voice-over which we can interpret in several ways, as their thoughts, voices in which they speak, the narrator, etc. One of the threads running through the film is communication, the use of language and the search for identity. The exhibition also includes new photos from the Portable Stones series, as well as some from the Foundlings series (2001). The museum is also presenting an earlier film that has hardly ever been seen in Belgium: A Tear for a Glass of Water, from 1997-1999. By means of the two films in the exhibition one can observe an interesting evolution in her work. In the earlier film we see a young woman who seems to be rehearsing a scene from a play, but her thoughts are constantly drifting off to other things. Her monologue jumps from the most minor observations to general truths and individual anecdotes. The only two elements in the set, a whisk and a lifebelt, seem to have a symbolic meaning. The one shakes up her ideas, while the other tries to give her something to hold onto. Year X (1991-2004) is a text project for which Orla Barry thought up a phrase, rhyme or word for every day of the year. On 366 separate canvases, the work is like calendar in which each date contains a poetical saying that can be changed every day. All of these ‘days’ are shown in chests in the room, and only a limited number are hung up on the walls. Several of Barry’s works from the early nineties have been revised for this exhibition. The Blue Volumes is a sort of ongoing diary project of sentences which are like written polaroids. The Blue Volumes contain minor observations, describe feelings or encounters and play with word repetitions and sound rhythms. The books were published in large format and the visitor can leaf through them. Another work that encompasses a particular period in her oeuvre is The Barmaid’s Notebook (1991-2001). This work originally consisted of about a thousand elements, scraps of paper, cards, photos, individual phrases, lists, etc. Whereas normally this work fills the entire space like a sort of pinboard, this time it can be seen in all its abundance in the form of a slide projection, with each object appearing separately in a loop. In 2001 Barry joined forces with the Portuguese artist Rui Chafes to make the work Unsaid. The visitor hears Barry’s voice through a sound installation inside Chafes’ sculpture. She addresses the listener directly and confides personal feelings and thoughts to them. The fact that the speaker’s heartbeat and breathing are audible in the text creates an intimate bond with the listener. This uncomfortable feeling is reinforced even more because the visitor only hears Barry’s words when they take up a position on Chafes’ uncomfortable sculpture. The new film, ‘Portable Stones’, will be shown at the Camden Arts Centre in London and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin in 2005 and 2006. In each of these places the film will be supplemented by one or more of Barry’s works. A publication on Barry appears in association with these two institutions. The design of the exhibition is by Bruno Poelaert and Kris Kimpe, in collaboration with Orla Barry. 

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