‘My Shadow’s Reflection’ is part of a new body of work made by Edmund Clark as artist in residence in Europe’s only entirely therapeutic prison environment, HMP Grendon.
Established in 1962, Grendon’s inmates must accept responsibility for their offences. They make a full-time commitment to intensive group therapy and exercise a degree of control over the day-to-day running of their lives through democratic decision-making. Through research and evaluation, evidence has demonstrated that Grendon has delivered lower levels of violence and disruption in prison, whilst reducing levels of reoffending after release.
You ask to be sent there to analyse and understand why you ended up in prison. You are held to account for your behaviour every hour of the day and must ask your community for permission for almost everything you want to do. The men you share your daily and past life with will vote you out if they question your commitment to the community or to your therapeutic process.
Over three years Clark’s work has been shaped by the prisoners, staff and the intense therapeutic processes and experiences at Grendon; and by the environment of the prison.
The book comprises architectural images of the prison, close-ups of flowers and leaves that grow within the prison and have been picked and pressed by Clark and images of the men made with a pinhole camera. Standing before the camera in a group situation for exposures of six minutes, the men talk in response to questions about their personal and criminal narratives. As they talk and move they shape the image of themselves. The men then respond, sharing what they think the image means to them and the outside world. In the exhibition the images are projected onto and through the green sheets the men sleep between. In this publication their words are printed on green pages in the centre of the book.
Copies of ‘My Shadow’s Reflection’ will be given to the men who took part in the work and will be sent to individuals affecting policy and discourse about the criminal justice system.
‘In Place of Hate’, the exhibition of Clark’s work as artist in residence at HMP Grendon is on show at Ikon, Birmingham from 6 December 2017 to 11 March 2018. The exhibition combines photography, video and installation to explore ideas of visibility, representation, trauma and self-image and address how prisoners and the criminal justice system are perceived and discussed by the public, politicians and media in Britain today. A catalogue of the exhibition, with additional material and text (but short edits of the work shown in ‘My Shadow’s Reflection’) is available from Ikon.