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There is a word in the Maori language that describes the concept of a person having the right, at a certain place, to speak and to be listened to with respect. The word is Turangawaewae, and roughly translates as the place where you have a right to stand. It is part of the intricate, formal marae etiquette that determines who speaks when, to whom, in what order and in what place. The depth of its importance in Maori language and culture has no parallel in Western belief systems.
These ancient themes of voice, presence, placement and struggle are explored in Jude Kentish’s exhibition Silent Infestation. This work speaks of the lack of rights of articulation in women’s history. Kentish focuses on her particular interest in articulation and its negation, of strangled or mute sound. Her intellectual concerns are presented in highly contrasted organic form – reasoned restraint seemingly just holding. There is a sense that the work in both two and three dimensional forms, starts with anatomical precision that is magnified to become a slow-motion filmic exposé of the success or failure of one’s struggle to speak and to be heard.
For Kentish, silence is both friend and foe. In this body of work silence becomes the predator. Articulation is frozen, held captive, by listening, perhaps unwillingly, to another discourse. The movement within these forms suggests an inhalation of breath, poised at the moment when listening is no longer an act of integrity, but becomes a realised act of submission. The knowing is painful. We are ashamed of our placelessness, but where to start – from where does one begin to place oneself with finality and belonging.
In the works on paper, we are taken on a computerised zoom ride through the artist’s optic lens. The magnification becomes intense. There is no urge to mimic here as in the three dimensional works. Instead we are looking for something familiar. We lose ourselves willingly in a sensuous pool of dark. The warmth of the maternal comfort zone? The image shifts and the darkness of comfort becomes sinister. A place where one is held in endless childhood. There is no place for a giant in the playground. Snail-slow, perception shifts again. The viewer is entranced by the curve of the lip, the mobility of the tongue, and the deep recess of the throat. The idea of an articulate sexuality hovers above the silence. For whom does the silence work? Who controls it? These works go beyond the idea of ‘doing’ and ‘being done to’, rather Jude Kentish investigates the dynamic dialectic that exists in each single entity.