Shaved Rapunzel & La Petite Bergère Punk
23.06.24 > 03.11.24
Partner(s)

Orla Barry. Shaved Rapunzel & La Petite Bergère Punk

 

As an artist and a shepherd, Orla Barry is between fields. From her daily life in the «world of sheep», she has learned her agricultural trade at the same time as pursuing her artistic practice. Her hybrid status as an artist-shepherd is expressed in her work through the materials (raw wool, felt), objects (crooks) and situations (auctions, pedigree competitions) that she borrows straight from her rural environment. Since 2009, she has lived on her farm in Ireland and since 2011 she has been tending to her flock of Lleyn sheep, a Welsh breed whose pedigree she preserves as her patrimony. In the highly masculine agricultural milieu, Orla Barry cuts a rebellious figure, refusing to be reduced to her gender by her peers. Like a kind of punk Bo-Peep, she contests patriarchal norms and refutes any hippy connotations that her choice to turn “back to the land” might awaken in the countercultural imagination. Forever on the lookout in this predatory milieu, her awareness sharpened by her feminist sensibility, Orla Barry is particularly sensitive when it comes to language, the primary vehicle of the stereotypes that construct our identities – first and foremost those shaped and perpetuated by representations of women in popular culture.


Inspired by oral storytelling traditions that shift and change over time, the title of her exhibition at MACS - Shaved Rapunzel & La Petite Bergère Punk - brings together and subverts two stereotypes of femininity: Rapunzel, the emblematic imprisoned woman, and Little Bo-Peep, a cliché of the shepherdess who attentively watches over her lambs. The exhibition opens with Spin Spin Scheherazade (2019), an installation that has recently been acquired by the MACS for its permanent collection. This work can be activated by performance or sound, and is made up a series of stories which convey to the public various interlinked episodes from the artist’s “pastoral” life that blend into one another to form an aleatory narrative akin to the 1001 Nights. Closely attuned to the social, ecological and economic realities surrounding her practice, Barry’s exhibition also features a number of works that are equally narrative but which deploy more material media: from triangular frames that enclose significant words (Shepherd, Scavenger and Slave, 2022) to an Aran sweater tells the story of the collapse of the wool market (The Wool Merchant's Calculator & The Curator's Jumper, 2022), and from a plank of London Plane wood bearing a calligraphic description inspired by the care provided to an animal (Songwood, 2022) to woolen pieces into which words and phrases drawn from the artist’s vocabulary are felted (Shearling Felts, 2023-2024).


Orla Barry was born in 1969 in Wexford (Ireland) where she lives and works.
She previously lived in Brussels for many of years.

 

► Artist's website

 

Sous les auspices de la Présidence belge du Conseil de l’Union Européenne 

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