CAIRO BATS خفافيش القاهرة // a collective of female artists

CAIRO BATS is a female artist collective based in Cairo staging photographs through playful interactions in urban public spaces. The resulting images aim to destabilise ways of thinking about how female bodies perform in the city, inhabit specific environments, and interact with the constant manoeuvring in everyday spaces. The Cairo Bats group has been working together since five years and currently consists of the artists Mai Al Shazly, Nadia Mounier, Hagar Masoud, Omneia Naguib, Yvonne Buchheim, Magdalena Kallenberger and Mireille El Magrissy.

Cairo Bats // Act 1: The Roof (2016)

Cairo Bats @ Afrotopia – Rencontre de Bamako // 11th edition 

Cairo Bats Talk @ Pala Lab – Collective Affairs (2017), SomoS Art House Berlin. 

Act 1: The Roof (2016)

Is the first public exhibition of Cairo Bats work and assembles a series of pictures spanning a period of two years taken on roof tops in the city.

These spaces navigate and defy limitations of the everyday environments women inhabit.In the images the members of the group act as the cast set in scene on this urban stage equivalent to improvisational theatre. Their performative interventions evolve in response to architectural features and objects they find in the chosen place: buckets, rugs, satellite dishes, furniture and metal bars. Playful interactions among the individual group members are the basis of their working process whereby the camera is a witness to their performative interventions with all six group members constantly moving between in front and behind the camera. A particular emphasis is given to the positioning of clothes: a pair of boots, a black shirt, a white dress are used as stand-ins of absent members of the group.

The theme of exploring absence and presence in relation to given circumstances and settings continues throughout the series however at night different light sources join the cast and underline the play of what is visible and invisible. 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 groups recurring play with what can be seen and what is hidden from view and their relation to topics inherent to working with cameras such as the picture frame, light and darkness or the camera position.

Combining pictures taken in different locations, by day and by night time, 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.

Cairo Bats. Tell me how to disappear (2017)

Act 2: The Bridge

For Act 2: The Bridge they shift perspective and play with what the imaginary and material body can discover through its interaction with the bridges of the city. In this public arena our performances become an everyday act of defiance. Their bodies push against static and overarching concrete structures and navigate forces of control in this body-city relationship. The body is both visible and invisible, malleable and stiff, overwhelmed and empowered. It is these shifting and contradictory paradigms, that make the body and city appear and disappear in their relationship to one another. It reveals both empathy and oppression, bodies move between invisibility by becoming part of the urban clutter, and simultaneously sensing and taking control of it, by engaging in the absurdity and rhythm of the urban landscape.

Exhibitions
2019   CAIRO BATS, exhibition, Window, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.   2018   CAIRO BATS performance, PALA LAB, SomoS Art Space, Berlin, Germany.
Musée des Cultures du Monde, Berg en Dal, Netherlands. Able Baker Contemporary, Portland, USA.   2017 Rencontres de Bamako – the African Biennale of Photography, National Museum Mali.   2016    CIC Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo, Egypt. Meeting Points 8: Studio Cairo. Windsor Hotel, Cairo, EG. Produced by: Mophradat. 
Media Reviews:
• 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)
• Al Watan Newspaper // 31.03.2016