Morten Skærpe Knarrum

NEU NOW 2012 Porto

Title: Behind Bard in Vik
Discipline: DESIGN
Institution: Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Norway

Norwegian designer Morten Skjærpe Knarrum is actually a designer duo together with Jonas Norheim and is known eponymously as Morten & Jonas. They established their studio in Bergen, Norway after receiving their master’s degrees from the Bergen Academy of Art and Design. The designers’ cutting-edge furniture and lighting designs are sparked by curiosity and imagination, but characterised by irreverence and wit. Morten & Jonas’ point of departure was their ability to bring social agendas into design, even enlisting the help of incarcerated men and women to manufacturer their Bake Me a Cake table lamp. Since then, Morten & Jonas have produced a range of celebrated designs, won several awards and had their work exhibited internationally. In Northern’s debut collection, they give full expression to their combined talents, designing multifunctional furniture, modular shelving and discreet lighting.
Future detention policy in Norway intends to provide rehabilitation for inmates. Currently, detention is foremost a punishment, but can also be an opportunity for inmates to develop the skills and values necessary to seek employment and become law-abiding citizens once they're released. All Norwegian inmates have mandatory work duties during detention, but these tasks – which may vary from scrubbing floors to making candles, bathtubs, or toys – have remained unchanged since the 1960s. If the duties of detained prisoners are intended to play a role in developing their skills and learning capacity, how can design benefit these inmates? Can the production of furniture in prisons stimulate dignity, perspective and pride among inmates? For the project Bak murene i Vik (Behind Bars in Vik) the artist Morten Skjærpe Knarrum designed furniture intended for production in prisons after holding a workshop with six inmates from Vik prison in Sogn. Using traditional techniques from cabinet-making, Knarrum's dining-room furniture designs are meant for an outside market. By reconnecting mandatory duties with real application, real use, his project aims to teach a profession and useful skills to inmates, improving their self-confidence and future prospects.
"How can design change people? In my project, I’ve worked with design not only as a visual tool but as an aid to stimulate and encourage greater pride, resilience and positive thinking among inmates. I want my project to be a contribution toward shaping a future justice system where the goal is to introduce rehabilitative measures within the sentence."