panopticon: australia

panopticon: brisbane 2007
photo by emma maclean
panopticon: brisbane 2007
photo by emma maclean
panopticon: brisbane 2007
photo by emma maclean
panopticon: brisbane 2007
photo by emma maclean

a single channel compilation video of a site-specific privacy service pvi have been conducting in cities densely populated with surveillance cameras throughout australia and asia since 2001. the work appropriates the use of umbrellas as a tactical privacy tool, allowing travellers the opportunity for a brief moment of privacy in a public space.   the panopticon series sees travellers shrouded in a cocoon of domestic umbrellas and navigated to a destination of their choice. rendered blind by the contraption they have to wear to ensure their identity is protected, participants are guided via audio from cb radios by the privacy team who endeavor to reach the end destination at all costs.

journeys are often painstakingly slow and methodical with activities that usually take 5 mins taking the team up to 40 minutes to complete as they navigate traffic, uneven road surfaces, public transport systems, security officials and any other unexpected obstacles. resulting live actions are documented via video and sound and then edited and installed as part of a sculptural installation.

the lateral, even dysfunctional re-use of the ubiquitous umbrella in the panopticon series posits old technology against new, as well as the individual against the system. instead of protection from natural elements, the umbrella is utilised as a barrier against invasive technology. patently inadequate to the task, its very failure poetically highlights the extensive use of technologies of control within our public spaces, while simultaneously demonstrating both the vulnerability of the individual and their capacity for resistance.

vivienne webb, curator, museum of contemporary art

Creative Team

devised by: pvi collective

pvi privacy service team: james mccluskey, chris williams and kate neylon

Performance History

terra nullius, contemporary australian artgalerie weimar, germany, jan – apr 2009

group exhibition co cutrated by deborah kelly & frank motz

terra nullius, contemporary australian art exhibitionhalle 14, leipzig, germany, may – jul 2009