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Week 26 - 2020

What is it like to live at Bastøy?

Mourad, from the PLACE workshop in Bastøy prison, 2019. Belongs to Preus museums collection

What is it like to live at Bastøy?

«Once you’ve got your sentence, you don't need to make it worse than it already is. In politics they say that prison is a place of rehabilitation. But if they don’t treat you well, prison becomes something different. But on Bastøy this is a reality. I can’t find anything that is negative about this place».

This statement was written by Mourad during the PLACE workshop held at Bastøy in October 2019, organised by Preus Museum. The main focus throughout the workshop was to make sure the eight participating inmates were able to express themselves freely through photography and text. The pictures and texts exhibited are produced and selected collectively among the participants. In this sense, the exhibition is a history of, and not about, the eight people who participated in the workshop.

Bastøy is an open prison run by a small local community dependent on the workforce provided by the inmates in order to maintain the prison services. For this system to work the inmates gain both trust and responsibility. This in turn helps them regain a sense of self-worth and effectively reduces the feelings of isolation from society around the island, or like Mourad wrote: «here things are based on trust among people, not rules. I think this is fantastic» [translated from Norwegian].

In many ways, freedom feels much closer and within reach at Bastøy. This premise has naturally influenced the images and the texts produced during the visit. The texts and images express more than frustration, hopelessness and or deep feelings about being people erased from society. They also express joy, thankfulness and the hope to once again step out into the world.

You can visit the outdoor exhibition ‘PLACE - Bastøy prison’ outside Preus Museum on Karljohansvern. You can see more of Mourad's images and texts, along with the images and texts made by the other participants in the workshop.