The current high level of criminal re-offending signifies that our penal system as a whole is not working. It is our conviction that the arts can be an especially effective way of engaging with offenders who feel alienated from mainstream education and employment, in order to break the vicious circle, and this informs our coordination of Edmund Clark’s three year residency at HMP Grendon, 2014-17. Clark’s longstanding interest in incarceration and its effects means he is exceptionally well placed to understand the complexities of Grendon, the men and the staff who inhabit it, and the challenges of his role.
As Britain’s only therapeutic prison HMP Grendon is unique. Inmates voluntarily apply to go there and once there, exercise a degree of control over the day-to-day running of their lives, and make a commitment to intensive group therapy and accountability to each other. It is the only prison in Europe to operate wholly as a therapeutic community.
Clark’s role as artist-in-residence is to develop a body of work in response to the prison and to help facilitate the prisoners’ own work and engagement with the creative process. He is exploring HMP Grendon as an environment and a process as well as a place of incarceration. This entails becoming familiar with the routine and therapeutic process of the communities and engaging the prisoners, prison officers and staff, in the development of his work. He is exploring complex ideas of representation, self-image, trauma and panopticism. Ikon held a symposium, Art, prison and rehabilitation – a conversation, in November 2015 and we look forward to another that will coincide with the installation of Clark’s work at Ikon during the winter of 2017/2018.
Jonathan Watkins, Ikon Director