Pan^opticon

Pictures of the Presidio Modelo, Nueva Gerona, Cuba; March 2019 (All are Archival Pigment Prints)

All Seeing Eye

 

Circular #4
20 x 30 in || 50.8 x 76.2
presidio modelo
Panorama showing the five panopticons.
10 x 42.5 in || 25.4 x 108 cm
GuardsView
360 degree view from the inside of the inspection tower; Circular #4 20 x 195 in || 51 x 495 cm (use scroll bar to view picture)

 

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After peer review, "On Power, Pans & Panopticons" was published by the International Panorama Conference (IPC). This after the paper was presented at the IPC Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA, on September 27, 2019. Abstract:
Some might think it ironic that an artist who makes panoramic photographs and is concerned about the current circumstances of our digitally networked world would explore a surveillance technology invented at the end of the 18th century. This paper reviews the history of the British social reformer Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon and places it in context with a contemporaneous invention: the panoramic painting. One of the few existing panopticon buildings, the Presidio Modelo in Cuba, is described, with a focus on its history and cultural impact. Finally, the paper offers reflections on the power/knowledge relationship and on how the panopticon can serve as a metaphor for our highly surveilled world, where those in power, gathering the data (knowledge), can predict and modify our behavior.
You can download the paper here.
Project Statement
Panopticon - From Greek; “All Seeing” and associated with the Greek primordial giant, Argus Panoptes, often described as having one hundred eyes.

One of the great powers of photography is its ability to document and show a place that would be difficult for others to observe first hand. These pictures present the Presidio Modelo (model prison) on Isla de la Juventud, Cuba, as I saw it in March 2019.

Jeremy Bentham, a 19th-century English philosopher and social theorist, who coined the term “panopticon”, described it as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example". Michel Foucault, who developed the social theory of panopticonism, said, “The Panopticon is a marvelous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power.”

I became interested in the Presidio Modelo because I see it as a metaphor for how I live in an era of ever-expanding data-gathering surveillance technology. I have begun to explore this concern by documenting this analogue – this 19th-century surveillance technology – as I consider the worldwide deployment of over 250 million CCTV surveillance cameras that are always watching.

A panopticon is usually associated with the architecture of a circular prison with cells arranged around the perimeter and an “inspection tower” in the center. From this tower, a single guard can observe all the inmates, but of course not at the same time. But, since inmates don’t know when they are watched, they are motivated to behave as if they are being observed, at all times.

Contemporary Inspection Tower

 

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hugh mckay

Compelling photos! Are you familiar with the work of Trevor Paglen?

john chao

Outstanding and Exquisite work. Better than being there.

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