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Published 01/02/2018 email E-MAIL print PRINT

Edmund Clark: ‘The intervention, the control, the censorship is part of what I do’

Edmund Clark discusses his recent residency at the UK’s only wholly therapeutic prison, HMP Grendon; his time spent on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan; and how intervention and censorship have become a part of his work

Edmund Clark isn’t one to pick easy subjects for his work. As an editorial photographer, he found himself working with teenage fathers and elderly prisoners, and this set him on his route to working with terror suspects, prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, and, most recently, a three-year residency at the UK’s only wholly therapeutic prison, HMP Grendon, where he worked with the inmates to produce four new bodies of challenging work, each employing methods new to his practice, which are now on show at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.

Edmund Clark, In Place of Hate, HMP Grendon, 2017. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist, Ikon and Flowers Gallery.

Pressed flowers trapped within a lightbox enclosure, the size of an average cell (1.98m2); a five-screen film of journeys around the prison’s corridors, grounds and perimeter (Vanishing Point); a film and book (My Shadow’s Reflection) comprising architectural images of the prison and pinhole camera images of the prisoners – blurred beyond recognition and speaking, Clark says, of how prisoners are not really seen in contemporary political discourse; and a longer 74-minute film work (Oresteia), showing a form of psychodrama episode, based on the Greek tragedy, with prisoners playing – and responding to – the various characters, exploring notions of acceptable violence, catharsis and empathy.

Edmund Clark, In Place of Hate, HMP Grendon, 2017. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist, Ikon and Flowers Gallery.

Clark has also recently spent time on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, taking photographs, which evoke the intangible yet intensely felt presence of the mountains beyond and the unseen insurgents they hide. These, along with reproductions of paintings of the mountains found at the base, and a towering column of razor wire, comprise a second exhibition at Flowers, New York.

Edmund Clark. The Mountains of Majeed 1, 2014. © Edmund Clark, Courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London and New York.

Simultaneously, Clark is having his first major solo exhibition in the US at the International Center of Photography, New York, where he is showing a cross-section of his work exploring structures of power and control in the global war on terror. Although Clark sees his work as political, he is adamant he is not an activist, but a “harmless, liberal artist”.

Edmund Clark: In Place of Hate
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
6 December 2017 – 11 March 2018

Edmund Clark: The Day the Music Died
International Center of Photography, New York
26 January – 6 May 2018

Edmund Clark: The Mountains of Majeed
Flowers, New York
27 January – 3 March 2018

Interview by ANNA McNAY

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