As we continue on through the garden, we come to the terrarium observatory.
This illustration depicts the botanical gardens version of a surveillance state. It is in this area that plants are housed in confinement. Inside of these clear, rectangular prisms, the viewer is able to see the plants roots reach into the layers of sediment. Here, the plants are vulnerable, their roots and vitality are exposed. In their clear cages, the plants are easily analyzed and monitored for signs of resistance.
In the center of the structures is a miniature version of the fountain found in the previous piece. Here I began using this form to represent the oppressive force within the garden. In the center of the terrariums, the ominous fountain watches over it’s subjects.
This idea was inspired largely by a prison design complex called the panopticon.
The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe all inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether they are being watched or not. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly. The name is also a reference to Panoptes from Greek mythology; he was a giant with a hundred eyes and thus was known to be a very effective watchman.
In this painting I chose the willow tree as the foreground botanical element. The willow tree has been observed to be one of few plant species that is able to communicate with it’s own kind. In the face of infestation, the willow tree signals other trees in its proximity to put up their defenses. Once the other trees are warned they secrete a sap that halts the invading insects. This trait however would not be of any use in isolation. By placing the willow tree within solitary confinement, I made a cyptic gesture towards the idea of divide and conquer. Mass Surveillance not only allows a regime to single out it’s enemies, but also neutralize communication and power in numbers.
The glass imagery was also inspired by Russian novelist Yvegeny Zamyatin’s book titled WE. WE is about a society that lives in entirely glass complexes. He envisions a world that acts in complete homogeny and nearly zero privacy. As these people live out their day under a universal time-table and they are also monitoring eachother in this transparent world. This society then acts almost as one singular entity. Needless to say, the issue of conformity becomes the underlying crux to most of these dystopias.
|Type of Work||Painting|
|Medium||Gouache and Watercolor|
|Dimensions||11 x 14 in.|
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