September 16, 2007

Panoptic Images

I really like the second image Dan posted, but not probably for the obvious reason.

The image shows the ideal subject of the panoptic prison: a prisoner, penitent, on his knees, examining his own soul in solitude. He has internalized, to his very core, the panoptic gaze, the I/eye that watches from the center but is itself unwatched. He watches himself inwardly just as he is watched (from the center and by you and I) from the outside.

It is eloquent in this way. But what I find interesting is the way the viewer is positioned. The view which we are offered - of the penitent prisoner, of the central tower where the I/eye of power hides - is a view that cannot exist. There is no position behind the prisoner from which to see his conformity with the processes of subjection at work within and without.

This position is fictional, but where does it place us within the scene?

I think even though we are behind him, we are the penitent. Or better, we are witnesses, called by the image to testify to the efficacy of panoptic power - whether we like it or not.

So, what other images can people find that shed some light on contemporary panopticism?

1 comment:

Dan said...

If you all find any images, just bring them to class on Wednesday. That way we can discuss them together.