Act1: The Roof, 2016

Digital Photography, ink-jet print.

Location: Artspace Building, corner of Bannatyne @ Arthur [sidewalk level]

For window winnipeg's forty-fourth installation we are delighted to present two sequential images from Act 1: The Roof a series of photographs taken between 2014 and 2016 on the rooftops of Cairo, Egypt by the all female photo collective, Cairo Bats.


In these staged photographs, collective members become a cast set in scene on the urban stage. Their gestures and process are akin to improvisational theatre where interactions among one another are the basis of their working process and performative interventions evolve in response to architectural features and objects they find in-situ: buckets, rugs, satellite dishes, furniture and metal bars.

The act of staging photographs in a semi-public space navigates and defies the conditions of visibility in everyday environments. The location of the roof at the margins of the domestic order of the house or the apartment in between the private and the public echoes in the group's recurring play with what can be seen, what is hidden from view, and their relation to photographic concerns such as framing, light source and the positioning of the camera, which becomes a witness as members move between in front and behind it. Emphasis is given to the positioning of clothes or props, as stand-ins for absent members. This play between absence and presence, so central to the series, is further punctuated at night by shifting light sources that join the cast and underline the play of what is visible and invisible.

Combining pictures taken in different locations, by day and by night, from the earliest working sessions to the most recent one, Act 1: The Roof shares with the public what has so far been a working process within the collective. For this window winnipeg installation, we chose two sequential images that explicitly highlight the collectives evocation of presence and absence, which we see as central to our collective's thinking about the gender coded body in urban spaces, which looks different, but is nevertheless a shared concern whether in Egypt or downtown Winnipeg. Over the duration of the installation, a subtle shift in the image provokes viewers to re-evaluate or 're-see' the image.

About the artist:

The Cairo Bats are a collective of all female photo artists based in Cairo, Egypt who have been collaborating since 2014, staging photographs through playful interactions in semi-public spaces. Their work has been shown in Cairo, Egypt at CIC Contemporary Image Collective; PALA LAB, SomoS Art Space, Berlin, Germany; Able Baker Contemporary, Portland, USA; and La Biennale Africaine de la photographie, at the National Museum of Mali in 2017. This is their first exhibition in Canada.

Further Reading on The Cairo Bats and Act 1: The Roof:

APERTURE "Dispatches: Cairo" exhibition review.

By Ismail Fayed // Issue 224 // Fall 2016

Al Ahram "Cairo Bats – photography group turn rooftops into playful stage".

Interview with the Cairo Bats by Soha Elsirgany // 2 April 2016

GIRLS LIKE US "Cairo Bats" // Vol. 2, No. 8 (2016)

window is located on Treaty 1 Territory, the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples and the homeland of the Metis Nation. Window is co-curated by Noor Bhangu, Mariana Muñoz Gomez, and Sarah Nesbitt.

This installation was made possible with the generous support from the Winnipeg Arts Council and the Manitoba Arts Council.