1.98m2 (2017) is an installation consisting of a lightbox in the shape of hollow square with an entrance. The inside dimension of the space it defines is 1.98 x 1.98 metres (or 6’6″ x 6’6″), the size of a cell at HMP Grendon; the entrance is the width of a cell door in the prison. Suspended between two sheets of clear perspex above the lightbox are flowers and leaves from plants that have been cultivated or grown wild within the prison perimeter. These have been picked and laid between sheets of prison issue paper towels then pressed under art books in my office. Over time they have become fragile. Some have rotted, some dried and curled. The light shining through them shows every vein, blemish and crease. It is the only light in the room.
1.98m2 was produced for In Place of Hate, an exhibition of work made by Edmund Clark over three years as artist in residence in HMP Grendon, Europe’s only wholly therapeutic prison, specialising in the rehabilitation of violent and sexually violent offenders. Men apply to be sent to Grendon from within mainstream prisons to undergo an intense process of group therapy and self-revelation. Living in communities of about 35 they share and attempt to understand their criminal narratives and personal histories, often of abuse, addiction and disorder. They have roles of responsibility in the community and must hold each other’s behaviour to account every waking hour when they are out of their cells. This work has been shaped by the men, staff and the intense therapeutic processes and experiences at Grendon; and by the environment of the prison. It explores notions of visibility, transformation, trauma and self-image in the context the reductive binary of good and evil that characterises discourse about criminal justice.