Reading the chapter about Panopticism in Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish was a revelation for me.
Through philosophical investigation Foucault uses History to highlight areas of domination over social classes. He illustrates how oppressed we in the Western World are, even though we are under the illusion that we have a certain type of freedom.
He uses the example of the panopticon designed by Jeremy Bentham, the building allows the incarcerated individual no privacy, and gives a sense of permanent visibility, thus ensuring a constant exertion of power – it is like a strange mind-game, inflicting an evil force of control.
This physical manifestation of power through the panopticon has spread in a psychological way through our society, allowing the exertion of power to become more economic and also effective – forming a discipline mechanism.
The panopticon represents the way in which discipline and punishment work in modern society. It is a diagram of power in action because by looking at a plan of the panopticon, one realises how the processes of observation and examination operate and our whole functioning capitalist economy depends on the docility and compliance of it’s masses, the panoptic model could be employed across a wide variety of areas, such as schools, factories, hospitals and prisons. We are all subject to the rules of the panopticon at some stage of our lives. The more sophisticated our society the more opportunity for the State to employ coercive tactics.
We as artists are in a position to question this and are very often non-conformists.
I would like to use the characters of the anthropomorphic tales of the 12th Century combined with 16th Century Ullenspiegel as an example of a way “we” have subverted that exertion of power, psychologically, through our identification with the ‘Other’.