un:mute Exhibition, Coventry UK
A commentary by Caoimhe McAvinchey
The Women/Theatre/Justice research project investigates the extraordinary and necessary work of Clean Break across more than four decades - what it does, how it does it and why it matters. As Artist in Residence, Laura Dean has been immersed not only in the subject of our research but how we go about it.
Dean's work does not document or illustrate but responds. Her work is generative, a catalyst which prompts further dialogue as we attempt to find words to engage with the ideas that she expresses so eloquently with a single precise image. Dean's work articulates and amplifies the personal and political implications of women's incarceration in a way that is distinctively different to the plays of Clean Break or the academic papers that we write. By guiding our gaze towards an image contained in a frame, we are anchored in a moment of looking, released from the weight of assumed knowledge of what we think we already know about criminalised women. We can look and look again, developing and connecting ideas in response what we see and what we feel. Dean's artwork is astute, bold, often humorous and always compassionate. Like Clean Break she has faith in an audience who will step towards the frame. The images recognise the imperative of un:muting voices that have been marginalised1 mistrusted or disregarded in the too-often unquestioned public service of 'criminal justice'. Her work is relational and invites a response. Implicit in this are questions for you the audience, you the viewer:
Where are you in relation to the frame?
Where are you in relation to the subject that is central to it? What will you do with your voice?
The un:mute Exhibition: Where and What?
This exhibition was a powerful and different way of telling the story of a research project.
In response to the project, multi-media artist Laura Dean has created artwork that is astute, bold, often humorous and always compassionate.
The exhibition also saw the launch of Clean Break’s Digital Timeline, which tells its own story.
The exhibition was open on Monday 21st March 5-9pm and on Tuesday 22nd March 12-7pm, at The Criterion Theatre, Coventry
un:mute was part of the Resonate Festival, funded by the University of Warwick to celebrate Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture. Celebrating the power of creativity, conversation and connection, The Resonate Festival launched in May 2021 and brings a 12-month programme of inspiring and interactive events (many free) for people of all ages across Coventry and Warwickshire to spark ideas, curiosity and creativity. Resonate culminates in a grand finale – a three-day live festival on campus in April 2022.The Resonate Festival programme is linked with the monthly themes of the Coventry City of Culture year, with our exhibition forming a part of their overall events.