Guest Blog

Producing the 2023 Koestler Arts Annual Exhibition

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Hi, I’m Charlotte and I produced this year’s Koestler Arts exhibition at the Southbank Centre: IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. I have been a long-time admirer of the important work Koestler Arts does as an organisation – not just the exhibitions but their wider programmes and education and mentoring work, and so it was a privilege to be involved. It’s been an exciting and creatively fulfilling process collaborating with Joelle Taylor, the Koestler team, the Curatorial and Production team at the Southbank Centre, and most importantly working with the entrants’ artwork!

Process and Approach

The process begun with Joelle visiting for several days to select work for the show. At this point, there was definitely a discussion of the themes of encasement, separation and connection – keeping apart people and ideas from the rest of society and the consequences of that. Joelle settled on the title IN CASE OF EMERGENCY to highlight the urgency and importance of art and its ability to highlight issues in society and communicate over barriers.

Some things that Joelle highlighted as priorities were to show poetry on objects, have spoken word on phones and to have artworks displayed behind glass or in cases of some kind as if they were animals in a zoo or specimens. It was also important that there was a section where the glass had metaphorically been broken and artworks and ideas had escaped.

I really enjoyed exploring different ways to display poetry in the exhibition. We looked at displaying poems on actual objects from secure settings but eventually settled on using items and modes of display that suggested the environment. This is how we ended up with poems on the grey jumper, the pale green piece of fabric in the rough dimensions of a single sheet and the plinths with 3 grey food trays and rails attached to it, alluding to a canteen line.


There are always going to be challenges when working on an exhibition, (which is a good thing as they are useful learning experiences!) and in this show it was working with structures like the metal “walls”. We had to think about how to attach artworks in a way that kept them safe but was also subtle. Apart from a large wall of artwork at the end of the exhibition, all of the work in the show is “vitrined”, kept behind glass. Finding lots of different ways to vitrine and encase things was also an interesting challenge. For example, we used LED lighting strips around one piece, Suit.

I can’t stress how important I think the Koestler exhibitions are. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, as with all the shows, is a way of making visible the lives, ideas, aspirations and talents of people in secure settings, and forefronts the exhibitors first and foremost as Artists.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY runs until 17 December 2023 at the Southbank Centre.