Doa Aly’s work is structured around a re-imagination of 19th and 20th century European literature with its sources, concerns, genres and protagonists, while constructing connections with current political conditions. Her interest in that particular canon stems from its substantial influence on how the humanities –specifically law and psychology- are taught and literature within them has been generated in Egyptian modern and contemporary histories.
Her earlier work revolves around the female body in performance and the histories involved in its capacity to assimilate movement. Her exploration of movement led to a specific interest in motor disorders where she started investigating schizophrenia, as constructed in 19th century medical literature and psychoanalytic theories. The attempt to explain and embody madness often resulted in conflicting linguistic approaches and Aly’s work aims to recreate this mental space, constantly seeking anchor in language and movement.
The video projects Tress of Hair (2008), The Girl Splendid in Walking (2009), and Metamorphoses: The Sequences (2010-2013), are performance-based literary adaptations, featuring characters engaged in ritualized performance. In these stories, the obscure symptoms of psychosis (gestures suspended between symptom and supplication) seemed to encourage poetic, trance-inducing literary strategies that Aly sought to reproduce through choreography and video.
With subsequent projects, she took an interest in the social contracts embedded in and binding the characters within the particular texts she has been using; where she attempts to trace all tropes of power, sexuality, and language prevalent in them. The three projects Hysterical Choir of the Frightened (HCF) (2014), House of Rumor (2016), and Free Radicals: The Performance (2016), question the limits of agency, the use of cryptic speech in the production of guilt and fear. The videos are populated with wandering characters, vehicles for the voicing of contesting narratives, while the performance directly juxtaposes the reflexivity involved in all utterances to the compulsive acceleration of automatic behavior, recalling an ongoing interest in psychosis and misplaced affect.
Doa Aly was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1976. She attended the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, earning a BFA in painting in 2001. Her work spanning video, drawing and performance, has been exhibited by many institutions worldwide. Her solo shows include Desire, Deceit and Difficult Deliveries, Townhouse, Cairo (2013); The House of Sleep, Gypsum Gallery, Cairo (2013) and The Girl Splendid in Walking, Darat al Funun, Amman (2010). Her group shows include When the whites of the eyes are red, The Center for Curatorial Studies and Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, New York (2017); Sounds As If, Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), Cairo (2016); Meeting Points 8: Both Sides of the Curtain, Beirut Art Center, Beirut; La Loge, Brussels (2016-2017); Complicity, Sultan Gallery, Kuwait (2015); Across The Universe, The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Seoul (2015); A Prologue to the Past and Present State of Things, Delfina Foundation, London (2015); Lest The Two Seas Meet, The Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2015); The Recorder Was Left On, Or The Closer I Get To The End The More I Rewrite The Beginning, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), Los Angeles (2015); Dancing Light / Let it move you..., Huis Marseille Museum, Amsterdam (2014- 2015); Locus Agonistes: Practices and Logics of the Civic, Beirut Art Center Beirut; Argos, Brussels (2011); Error #17 Into the light, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp (2010); The Future of Tradition -The Tradition of Future, Haus Der Kunst, Munich (2010- 2011); What Keeps Mankind Alive?, 11th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2010). Her films and performances have been shown by the New Museum (New York), Tate Modern (London), and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. Doa Aly was shortlisted for the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2017. She lives and works in Cairo.