‘Docile Bodies’ was a group exhibition featuring Benjamin Edwin Slinger, Georgia Lucas-Going, Hardeep Pandhal, Jesse Darling, Liv Preston and Sam Blackwood, exploring the theory of Panopticism in relation to VITRINEs unique exhibition conditions; the ability to be viewed 24/7.
Though English philosopher Jeremy Bentham first coined the term ‘Panopticism’ the theory was substantially developed by French philosopher Michel Foucault in his book ‘Discipline and Punish’ (1975). Foucault explored the history of criminology and penology and according to Foucault, the perfect situation for influencing behaviour is the creation of docile bodies, “bodies that not only do what we want but do it precisely in the way we want.” These ‘docile bodies’, Foucault says, are instilled using three techniques: ‘hierarchical observation’, ‘normalising judgement’ and ‘examination’. These enable us to control what people do just by watching them.
The underlying belief of Panopticism is that humans will behave well under constant surveillance. Foucault drew this theory by looking at Bentham’s ‘Panopticon’, a specific type of architecture that he found ideal for maximising control of the subjects with minimal authority members. The Panopticon is a circular building with well-lit segmented rooms on the outside and an observation tower within. The authority figure in the watchtower can look within each cell at any given time, 24/7. Panopticon principle was beneficial to a variety of institutions in which surveillance was important, including hospitals, schools, workhouses and prisons.
VITRINE’s unique architecture creates conditions for viewing the work 24/7, playing between the public and the private. This exhibition explored parallels between the space and the Panopticism theory. Using the divisions in the window panels and spatial partitioning, the space reflects the Panopticon. The artists presented works exhibited as six solo presentations existing aside each other. Offering the viewer an active role, ‘Docile Bodies’ explored VITRINE’s relationship with public space, and the gallery’s proximity to private space masquerading as public.
Panopticism’s core themes are ‘the systematic ordering and controlling of human populations through subtle and often unseen and/or unknown forces’. Today society continues to understand and manipulate the bases of enacted control through the fear of being observed. The Panopticism theory acts as a unifying device for this group exhibition as the works draw on themes of various institutions, audience viewership and performativity.
Each artist approaches the subject of Panopticism individually yet all of the works featured the self or the body. The works were activated through the action of examination which in turn creates ‘Docile Bodies’.
Hardeep Pandhal’s figurative cutouts were positioned in conversation with each other and the viewer. They are human height and have a dominant presence in the space. Georgia Lucas-Going presented two etched metal works, hung high and watching the viewer. One stating ‘I’ve given you everything up until now’, the other with a figurehead. These works were accompanied by her ‘chair’ performance, which was performed on the evening of the opening, which pushes the boundaries of the body.
A chair reoccured in Benjamin Edwin Slingers’ section, where the artist created an office-like positioning of work, hosting fragile glass ‘plastic bags’, a car-seat-Swedish-chair hybrid and a smiley inlayed framed work. Authority is present within each of Slingers’ work, specifically reflective of police state.
Jesse Darlings’ Untitled (waiting room poster/municipal hospital series) are drawings on plastic signage, which examine the multitude of institutions where surveillance has been seen as important and implemented, such as schools and hospitals. Similarly exploring systems of power, Liv Preston created a “sprue system” that hosted a display of previous works within the work, exploring gaming tropes that link to Panopticism theory in the age of digital surveillance.
Sam Blackwood used windowlene to vaguely block out one of the panels, obstructing the viewers gaze. One metal tattoo artwork hides behind the clouded window and sits alongside found objects, cans and chains, which are used to create a physical partition that echoes the thick panels of the gallery architecture and the cell walls of the Panopticon.
Docile Bodies was curated by Helena Kate Whittingham (VITRINE Assistant Curator) and was her first London exhibition.
Jesse Darling (b.1984 Felixstowe) is an artist based in London and Berlin. Recent Solo shows Include; Support Level, Chapter Gallery, New York, US (2018) Armes Blanches, Galerie Sultana, Paris, FR (2017) ATROPHILIA (w Phoebe Collings James ), Company, New York, US (2016) and The Great Near, Arcadia_Missa, London, UK (2016).
Liv Preston (b.1993 Keighley West Yorkshire) is currently based in London studying at The Royal Academy. Recent Shows include; Honeymoon – Weston Studios, London (2018), Mantel – Copperfield Gallery, London (2018), It doesn’t take long to find new targets – isthisit? issue 03/Take Courage, London (2017), General Studies – OUTPOST, Norwich (2016) and VALUABLE WOUNDS – Pas Le Temps, Nantes 2016, A British Art Show – MEYOHAS, NYC (2015).
Georgia Lucas-Going (b.1988 Luton) recently graduated from Slade School of Art with an MFA in Fine Art Media. Recent shows include; (NOT) All Personal at the Alexander Mc Queen Studios, London, UK, Widening the Gaze at Slade school of Art and KNOW WAVE radio show with Eddie Peake’s record label Hymm. Lucas-Going was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 and is currently scholar at the Sarabande foundation, one of the artist’s in residence at Wysing with the collective ‘FORMELY KNOWN’ and recently been chosen as one of Deptford X artists of 2018.
Sam Blackwood (b.1992 Hartlepool) is currently living and working in Hartlepool. Blackwood recently graduated from Contemporary Art Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. Selected exhibition include; Zabludowicz Master Class, Northern participant. Zabludowicz Collection London (2018) ’TURBO’, Goldtapped Gallery, Newcastle. (2017) Spareroom Residency, Liverpool. Shy Bairns. (2017) Caustic Coastal, Manchester (2016) Forthcoming projects include Snoar Press, ‘POWERHOUSE’ Book release ‘Powerhouse’ 2018. London.
Hardeep Pandhal (b.1985 Birmingham) now lives and works in Glasgow. His work was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013), the Glasgow International Open Bursary (2013), the Drawing Room Bursary Award (2015) and the New Museum Triennial (2018). Recent solo exhibitions include Liar Hydrant at Cubitt, London and A Nightmare on BAME Street at Eastside Projects, Birmingham and Kelvin Hall, Glasgow International.
Benjamin Edwin Slinger (b. 1990 Sheffield) lives and works in London Studied at Leeds College of Art and Goldsmiths BFA. Recent shows include ‘From the Island of Truffles to the Kingdom of Misunderstandings’ Ha Ha Gallery, Southampton (2017), Raid 5: An Endless Futurist Dream; Only in Daylight Do We See the Real Terror, LARA, London (2017), The Closest Thing to Wearing Nothing’ M.I/mi1glisse, Berlin (2016), ‘LET IT RAIN!’ Assembly Point, London (2016),‘Magiciens de la Merde’ &Model, Leeds (2015).