An underwear revolution: Egypt's blue bra takes its place in history
There was no escaping it. Anyone in Egypt in December of 2011 remembers the woman with the blue bra. The blue bra and what it stands for has become more famous than the woman herself.
And what it stands for is the site of artistic conceptualisation for Yasser El-Mongy. Revered as a symbol of resistance by some, made infamous by hardline conservatives and taken as the embodiment of a unique brand of Egyptian misogyny by others; the blue bra has clearly taken up space in our collective imagination.
For El-Mongy, artist, critic and curator, exploring this “visual clue” in the eyes of both western and local media, provides for a rich, nuanced exhibition about one of the biggest controversies of 2011.
The exhibition will open today at noon in the Faculty of Fine Arts’ main hall. El-Mongy aims to “reconstruct and reread this main visual clue according to new concepts and significances.” The idea is to startle the audience and deconstruct a familiar visual symbol into something jarring and new.
The exhibition poses several critical questions; what is the effect of putting a visual clue such as the blue bra, with a strong place in our collective consciousness into a different context than that which we have come to associate it? Can we expect the effect of two symbolic contexts on the audience in advance? What are the limits of changing and reconstructing cultural beliefs and referents? And finally, how can we relate the answers to these questions with the traumas that will follow deconstructing such well-established collective experiences?
The dense academic side of the exhibition is courtesy of El-Mongy’s long career as a critic and curator; El-Mongy was most recently the curator of the 23rd Salon of Youth that was hosted at the Opera House, and which impressed us with its meticulous planning that took in the visual and conceptual elements of the works.
Bra… vo!! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is heavy on the conceptual side but aesthetics and visuals are just as important to El-Mongy and the blue bra will merely be the starting point, both in terms of substance and style for this ambitious project.
El-Mongy has merited several prizes including the first prize in the second session of Al-Shareqah Prize of Academic Art Criticism and is the author of various books in fields ranging from novels, the history of art, anthropological research, art criticism, and the documentation of works of art.
Is this just a photo of some underwear or does it mean a lot more? Share your thoughts below.