Artist-in-Residence Moses Williams' exhibition Parable Bodies is on view through June 1, 2024 in the AIR Space.


Feb 13, 2015 – Jul 25, 2015

Panopticon meaning to observe (-opticon) all (pan-), is a metaphor encapsulating the numerous forms of surveillance used to watch and normalize social behavior. This exhibition investigates systems of observation utilized to record our daily lives through the deployment of both physical and invisible panoptic structures.

Through various constructs of surveillance, Panopticon explores how artists construe notions of the gaze in our technological era of image and data collection.

Originally conceived as a system of supervision for laborers by Samuel Bentham and later re-envisioned as a structure for confinement by his better-known brother, Jeremy Bentham, the Panopticon is imbued with ideas of control and obedience. French philosopher Michel Foucault further traces the implications of this disciplinary mechanism not only as a penitentiary, but also as an effective structure for schools, hospitals, factories, malls, etc., providing a diagram of power relationships that influence how societies establish law and order through concepts of vision.

Looking to the plurality of the Panopticon – as structure, theory, and icon – the works in this exhibition reveal the shifting relationships between discipline and governance, security and exposure. Contemporary panoptic structures expand the limitations of private versus public space, as populations freely share in the development and consumption of electronic devices that operate as a means for the few to observe the many, just as the many may observe the few.

Such reciprocal systems of data collecting and analysis outline the current form of participatory supervision resulting from the culture of the monitoring gaze. Panopticon draws on new media observational methods to critically reinterpret how Bentham’s eighteenth-century design translates to concepts and representations of surveillance in the twenty-first century.

Featured Artists

Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun; Erik Brunvand; Mahwish Chishty; Paolo Cirio; Heather Dewey-Hagborg; Willie Doherty; Constant Dullaart; Pablo Garcia; Adam Harvey; Leopold Kessler; Jonas Lund; Kate McQuillen; Trevor Paglen; Evan Roth; Addie Wagenknecht