SILENCE/VIOLENCE co-opts a handwoven Bokahra rug, of a kind made in Pakistan and Northern India, worn threadbare towards erasure. This installation speaks to a complex array of violences; from colonialism to anti-Muslim violence, to the Indian bridal dowries of which a rug forms part and the horrors of bride burnings, bride murders and gendered violence. Bridal dowries were initially enforced by the British in colonial India and continue to be a focal point of horrendous violence against women. The rug situates violence in the domestic sphere, within tensions at the juncture of familial relationships. Grains of rice form SILENCE, whilst obscured under the rug, VIOLENCE is scattered as if by a kick. Tracing my own Indian heritage (which has been subject to erasure), I use rice as a signifier of my close ancestral connections and of the intergenerational violence handed on in daily routines as unquestioned as rice to a meal.
Most recently, President Modi enacted the most severe lockdown in the world. Within four hours, he forced the exodus of millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people from the cities of India, to walk thousands of kilometres in crowds to their villages, without food, sanitation or water and exposed to Coronavirus. As the rice text in the work is scattered, so too are the most vulnerable, erased out of wealthy cities and towards what is likely to be a genocide of the poorest. In India, anti-Muslim violence is escalating. Further compounded by lockdowns, violent perpetrators are increasing their attacks on women and children who are unable to escape. Gendered violence is surging globally. Silence and violence are entwined, used to suppress victims and ensure that systems of power can be sustained. Coronavirus is magnifying these existing imbalances, making visible the underlying violence that is no longer hidden.
Claire Bridge is an interdisciplinary artist, of Anglo-Indian and culturally Deaf heritage, whose practice includes biomorphic ceramic sculpture, video and sound work, textiles, painting and installation. Bridge’s work engages with underrepresented voices, gender inequality, ancestral transmissions, paradigms of power, intergenerational trauma and the environment. Her ceramic Bombshells sculptures challenge notions of sexuality, violence and societal modes of female representation. She draws on intersectional feminist protest traditions in her textile works, Your Silence Will Not Protect You -after Audre Lorde, underscoring the silencing of women’s voices. Bridge’s interest in neuroscience and relational repair inform her innovative video/sound work Recalibrate, at the intersections of sick theory, care, empathy, race and gender.
The inclusion of Bridge’s work in institutional exhibitions shows the growing appreciation for her work, attested by her inclusion in Manic, The Big Anxiety Festival at the University of New South Wales 2019, Network at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, HIGH VIS, with Penny Byrne, Warrnambool Art Gallery 2019, Fecund: Fertile Worlds, Artback NT, curated by Clare Armitage and which toured nationally along with her forthcoming exhibition at Counihan Gallery.
Bridge has been winner of the Living Art Award and People’s Choice for the Stan and Maureen Duke, Gold Coast Art Prize, awarded the Silver Medal in the Black Swan Prize, People’s Choice in the Portia Geach and Shirley Hannan Portrait Awards. She has been short-listed on multiple occasions in the world’s richest portrait prize, the $150,000 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and a finalist in the prestigious Sulman Prize at the AGNSW. Bridge is currently undertaking a Master of Contemporary Art at the VCA-MCM, University of Melbourne. Her work is held in public and private collections including Maroondah Federation Estate Gallery, the Honorary Consulate of Monaco and collections across Australia and New Zealand, USA, UK and Europe.