The typology of the panopticon (from the Greek panoptes = all-seeing) is a
prison typology developed in the 18th century by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham to effectively control, discipline, monitor and study all prisoners in an efficient manner. The typology, as proposed by Bentham, consists of a circular building, with cells housed in the outer ring, a central watchtower at the center and a courtyard between the two, which is covered by a dome. Theoretically a single guard stationed in the watchtower at the center of the circle can survey all prisoners.
Besides the revolutionary typological invention, the diagram of the panopticon also directly reflects the difference in power distribution between guard and prisoner. Moreover, the disciplinary nature of the panopticon is a direct result of the architectural design of the prison, as it is clear who watches over you, but not when you are being watched. This mental dimension of the imprisonment, in addition to the physical restrictions, results in self-discipline of the inmates as a result of the continuous doubt if one is watched by the guard in the central watchtower.
While panopticons are no longer construed, its mechanisms of unequal power distributions, the opacity of being watched and when being watched, as well as the self-discipline (or censorship) permeate through society by way of big data gathering and surveillance schemes behind the interfaces of social media. We need to reorientate ourselves towards the future and have to ask the right questions now and collectively, as the cards are being dealt. On the basis of collective urgency we can find new relationalities between each other and our engagement with our (natural) environments. With PANdancing we aim to question these aspects of society in a playful and experiential manner. As such, the project has neither utopic or dystopic ambitions, but it is simply a provocative installation exploring the very real.
II. Togetherness through separation
Beyond the shared etymological background, PANdancing plays into the tension between the panopticon (cellular individualization) and the pandemic (epidemic that affects all people). Three operations on the panopticon construe this:
The outer ring of the panopticon has been opened, allowing the cells to be entered from the outside. The inner ‘courtyard’ can be seen from the cell via a one-sided mirror (foil). Hence, the person standing in the courtyard only sees him/herself reflected.
Half of the cells that make up the outer ring are distributed across Porto/ Matosinhos. Instead of a window with a mirror (foil), these individual cells have a screen on which a live stream of the courtyard in the main pavilion can be seen. The camera is located at the top of the dome and looks down on the courtyard taking in the position of the guard in central watchtower.The courtyard can be entered through a pivot door. The courtyard can only be entered by one person/household at a time and the pivot door sweeps the previous visitor out of the courtyard.
An audiovisual installation will play in the courtyard. This is a show of 3-5 minutes and will be looped for sequential experience. With music and light, emotion can be evoked and people are invited to dance. In this way we aim to stimulate togetherness through separation and turn social distancing into social dancing. By making the domed roof and the walls from translucent, flexible sheeting/fabric, the audiovisual show is shared to a certain extend both within the courtyard and those who occupy the cells in the outer ring by way of touch, sight and sound. Furthermore, at night the translucent material also transforms the installation into a beacon of light and sound.
As such, a connection is forged between spaces and between people who share a simultaneous experience, without them physically being in the same space. In this way, the cellular compartmentalization brings about the paradox of a shared individual experience. This is reinforced by positioning the cells throughout the city, which at the same time is an abstract carthograpic strategy of mapping Porto/Matosinhos through urban interventions. These are connected by each other through the use of physical and digital technologies, and explorable by the act of walking as a means to navigate the city, connecting different areas and people.
The installation invites visitors to take part in a game of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Both the one-sided mirror and the voyeuristic camera imagery cast doubt on who exactly observes whom and to what extent people are aware of being observed. The combination of screens, mirror and camera seeks out the tension between the exhibitionist and voyeuristic aspects of social media, but also raises questions about social control and surveillance.
The inner courtyard serves as an enclosed stage to let loose, dance and have fun, with the mirrors emphasizing the centrality of the space and its occupants. This is enhanced by the the all-seeing eye of the camera and those observing behind the screens and the one way-mirror, outside of the awareness of the subject(s) at the center. However, how nice is it really to be viewed, without you knowing who is watching? Is this Living Apart Together in the 21st century? With this installation we try to investigate how people behave in such a situation. Do people dance? And how do people interact? Do visitors feel watched or not and what do they think of that?
These and other pressing topics in relation to the central theme of PDB ’21 Alter-Realities: Designing the Present can be discussed on the stage of the main part of the installation, with the pavilion itself serving as a backdrop. We imagine discussions, presentations and performances taking place on the topics addressed by the PDB, however we are more than interested and open to engage with organizers and locals to think of and concretize a range of activities and initiatives to forge tactical and strategic alliances and also programmatically connect different parts of the city.
The distribution of the PANdancing pavilion
The main pavilion is located centrally in Porto at the Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique. From this location six segments of the outer ring of the pavilion are transposed and fanned out over Porto/Matosinhos, finding their definitive locations where the 30 ° radials happen to intersect diverse and meaningful locations in the city. The segments are pointed towards the central pavilion and as a result, even the digital sightlines are direct in a way, transforming Porto/Matosinhos into the world’s largest amphittheater.
PANdancing as a beacon
The audiovisual experience inside the main pavilion is composed of music, sounds of streetscapes typical for the six locations where the separte sections have been positioned and a light installation that interacts with the sound. Together with the interior of the interior shape and cladding of the pavilion, the audiovisual show will form an immersive experience stimulation the auditory and visual senses.
The translucent sheet/fabric used to encase/enclose the pavilion fulfills as an important role in both enhancing and mediating the audiovisual experience. The sheeting brings in the stimulation of the sense of touch and in so enriches the experience. Furthermore, it allows for the occupants on either side of the sheet (in the central courtyard and in the cells of the outer ring) to ‘touch’ each other, mediating the shared multisensory experience.
Moreover, it transmits both the sound and light from the audiovisual show turning it, especially, in the night time situation into a beacon of sound and light.