Panopticons, surveillance birds


Bentham’s eighteenth-century dystopia, the idea of an architectural space that allows total visibility and control, returns in the project Panopticons made by a couple of Dutch students at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU): Thomas voor ‘t Hekke and Bas van Oerle. In this modern take the Panopticon is no longer a prison, but it becomes a system of winged surveillance cameras or, if you prefer, birds whose heads have evolved into cameras. The growing tension induced by the widespread distribution of electronic eyes in every part of modern urban areas, is evoked by the duo by releasing birds (gulls and crows) in the most crowded places of some Dutch cities; the fact that these strange animals are equipped with a moving camera mounted on their neck provokes quite different reactions in those passersbys who notice this disturbing presence: from amusement to anguish. These reactions are filmed and edited into short videos that are emblematic of the trend, typical of some modern technologies, to become instruments of control, as well as the resignation of modern people to live their everyday lives under surveillance.

Vito Campanelli