Koestler Arts is proud to present their sixteenth annual London exhibition at the Southbank Centre this November, curated by T.S. Eliot Prize-winning poet Joelle Taylor.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY will feature nearly 200 artworks across visual, writing and music categories entered into the 2023 Koestler Awards for art in the criminal justice system, by individuals in prisons, secure mental health facilities, immigration removal centres, young offender institutions and on community sentences across the UK. Having worked in prisons for over twenty years, Joelle Taylor’s motivation for this year’s exhibition is to showcase the talent and imagination that springs from secure settings. Choosing from over 8,000 pieces sent into this year’s Awards, the poet selected artworks that showcase both excellence and ingenuity. These qualities are shown in different ways by the artists, through concept, skill and story-telling, as well as through the use of unusual materials that highlight their resourcefulness. These include artworks made from crisp packets, prison issue soap, rice, seeds and even clinical waste bags.
Shaped by her own work, the poet’s focus settled on the idea of vitrines and glass display cases as a way of exploring themes of separation and connection. The title, IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, encourages visitors to complete the well-known phrase with ‘break glass’. All the artworks will be encased in various ways, whether literally or metaphorically, and this design will help to draw attention to these themes. Visitors will be invited to think about the way we present and look at things and how it feels to be on either side of the glass.
“When I see these cases, it makes me think of what happens when we break the glass, what happens when ideas escape,” said Joelle Taylor, curator of the show and previous Koestler Awards judge.
With an underlying feeling of emergency throughout, questions and thoughts such as these will surface when engaging with the variety of artworks in this year’s exhibition.
Some of the artworks on display are for sale and will be available to purchase through the Koestler Arts website from 2 November. There will also be opportunities for visitors to write feedback on their favourite pieces in the exhibition space, which will be sent directly to the artists after the exhibition.
In addition to curating the exhibition, Joelle Taylor is also the foreword writer for Koestler Arts’ fourth volume of poetry, Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons. The anthology, which features thoughtful, humorous and moving poetry written by those in criminal justice settings over the past two years, will be published in the Autumn and available to buy at the Pop-Up Shop in the exhibition space. Poems from the fourth anthology, as well as poems entered into the 2023 Koestler Awards, will be performed at Koestler Arts’ annual event, Voices from Prison, on 8 November at the Southbank Centre. Tickets will be available through the Southbank Centre website later in the year.
Free, pre-booked exhibition tours will be available for the public at set times of the day (Thursday to Sunday) by specially trained guides who have personal experience of the criminal justice system. The guides will be happy to talk more about the important role creativity plays in the criminal justice system and to supply more information about the wider work of Koestler Arts.
Joelle Taylor comments: “I’ve spent about twenty years now working in prisons so I’m aware of the vast diversity of arts that are created within the criminal justice system, and the opportunity to be able to introduce that to a wider public is compelling.
I think people should come to the exhibition to be in the presence of excellence. And then the secondary reason is I want people to challenge their understanding of who prisoners are, who inmates are, who residents of secure units are. They are part of humanity, and a vibrant part, and through that I want them to question the way that we operate the criminal justice system as well. But excellence and life and humanity - that’s why you should come.”
Fiona Curran, Chief Executive of Koestler Arts, comments: “This year people across the criminal justice system responded with one of the highest levels of participation in the Koestler Awards to-date and it is amazing to see numbers back to pre-pandemic levels. Joelle has worked hard to get a sense of all these voices and this is reflected in her thoughtful and urgent selection for this year’s exhibition.
Mark Ball, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, comments: “I am thrilled to see Joelle Taylor curating this year’s Koestler Arts exhibition. A very welcome and familiar face of the Southbank Centre, Joelle’s long-time commitment to working in prisons makes her the perfect choice to curate this year’s exhibition which shines a light on the breadth of creative expression and artistic talent in prisons today.”
For more information visit: www.koestlerarts.org.uk
Southbank Centre Exhibition Space, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX