In my role as ‘flaneur’ I went for a ‘derivé’ of sorts and circumnavigated the 16-18 acres (some elasticity in its pricise London acreage) around the perimeter of Millbank site. It’s an excursion I made with Panoptes – an interpretation of the 100 eyed God. Surveillance has grown from Bentham’s theory into a very creepy thing where our attitude is now indifferent to living under the gaze of law and control.The numbers of surveillance cameras are not diminishing in our lives, they are increasing creating an oppressed society.
The protecting becomes control and we accept the living within a violently controlling society. How can we reverse the Bentham theory and challenge it for something different? We accept surveillance cameras and their presence in our lives and our every move recorded on all technology that we interact with, on the belief it is fun or it is helpful to ourselves. Why? on the one hand they are friendly foe protecting us, working in our best interest. On the other, we adjust our behaviour to behave, accepting our privacy is stolen;in doing so we adhere, and are compliant to Panoptes’control.
I placed Panoptes on the points of where the corners of the prison had once been the exterior walls, a petal shaped hexagon.
Back in the studio the painting becomes a response to the psycho-geographic response. The starting point is always a physical object. My memory and imagination then goes to work. For me, the ship’s bollard (of which there are two on Millbank’s door-step, and a third on the landing site in Victoria, Australia) is the contact of human presence from the prison’s past.It is useful for me to understand that the bollard was a lasting physical and tactile object for the prisoners who would have gathered around such an object while waiting to board and be transported to the Colonies. A significant lasting object that was touched, leant against and sat upon before stepping up onto the ‘Angelina’, (for one) which were also nicknamed ‘floating brothels’. For many prisoners, the bollard was their last glimpse and contact with London for life and therefore it takes on a surreal human presence in my mind. an inert physical mass which witnessed through hearing, seeing and smelling all that surrounded it. Hence my interpretation of a friendly and unchallenging creation in Panoptes.
The original bollard has two big round holes. My plaster creations were immediately transformed into ‘cute’, ‘adorable’ when I cut the 2 holes for eyes. Humans respond with warmth towards this Panoptes. I have mounted it on a wheelie plinth so it can survey 365 degrees and move with ease, and almost independently. So Panoptes (the cute wheelie being) becomes my symbol of (boring) Bentham’s ideology of
My paintings employ a limited palette and the use of monotone paint is useful in these early stages. It allows concentration on the physical place and then translates into my physical response by using my body’s agility and energy. By painting on the floor my body can navigate around the painting as if plotting the geographic location. The image does not represent anything but there are points of reference.
Annabel Ludovici Gray