Feb 12th ~ 16th
My Monday tutorial was with Colin this week. We began with me outlining some of the history of the area where I took the photos featured in my presentation, the tradition of the lake cutting and its contrast with the sacred water. Colin mentioned Phillip Taaffe’s paintings in relation to my mirrored photographs. This fed into my interest in the search for the spiritual in a secularized society. I’ve observed the uptake in new wave spiritualism and the connection or blurring with conspiracy theories; a common theme with both is a desire or adoption of the miraculous, magical thinking, ritual and shamanistic leaders. Colin told me about the work of Marcus Coates and Charles Avery which aligned with my undergrad work where I inhabited a future primitive making sense of a rapidly changing environment and devising rituals and mythologies to reflect it. I’ll need to get back in the habit of collating a visual notebook of images and works of art to prepare for the coming presentation.
Tuesday morning was given over to the research practices presentations of our chosen text from one of the Whitechapel/MIT Documents of Contemporary Art Series. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to get through everyone. Myself Pim and Ray will present next week.
Situations @ Cork City Gaol. An excerpt from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison (1975) – Panopticism
I was looking forward to our first on-site Situations discussion group. We walked up as a group on a clear crisp cold day, it was a good excuse to orient myself a bit in the city since I’m pretty unfamiliar with Cork. We were given the official tour by our affable young guide, I didn’t realise that a tour was scheduled and it gave a great background to the site where we’d be conversing. I found the text very interesting considering the omnipresent digital panopticon that is social media.
Foucault takes the term Panopticism from Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design for institutions to allow easy observation of inmates by warders. He begins by outlining methods to contain the plague in the late 17th century. Every infraction is on pain of death, there is a strict hierarchy of officials from the abject ‘Crows’ who tend the sick, up to the Mayor. It is a ‘segmented, immobile, frozen space’ with constant surveillance, registration, inspections and reports. Herein lies the power of disciple; its ability to analyse. He makes a comparison between the binary system of exclusion with leper colonies and the disciplinary structures of plague control. He observes these two models merge during the 19th century; treat lepers as plague victims or individualise the excluded. The leper becomes the vagabond or undesirable, Disobedience is the stand in for plague. The panopticon is the architectural manifestation of this, a machine for dissociating. The prisoner, inmate, pupil or worker is enclosed but always visible, seen but cannot see. ‘It assures the automatic functioning of power’. The crowd is separated, collective effect stopped and exchanges curtailed. It is also a laboratory where power could try out new and different techniques of control or punishment.
Our conversation spent little time correlating Foucault’s critique with today’s surveillance apparatus and Neo-liberalism project of the individualisation of society and it’s disdain for collectivism. The irony of contemporary social media users being contained, observed and experimented on was not lost on us with several of us making similar points. Lucy needed to rein us in a few times to keep us on topic. The walk back was full of chat, when we got back to the city Francesca brought us along North Main Street, a main thoroughfare to the Northside, not as polished and upmarket as the Patrick street area but full of shops and bustling. She showed us a small square that is apparently one of the few places in Europe that no permission is needed for any sort of gathering or performance.
Wednesday – Metal work induction.
Clare, Pim and I were the only inductees, our instructor, Pat Twomey, is genial and a good communicator who I found out later worked with a welding instructor of mine at Oerlikon. I reigned in any comments or reactions and just took the session on face value, ever on the lookout for a learning opportunity. The feel of a metal workshop in a learning institution always has a distinctive feel to it, a different type of potential that commercial shops lack and a delicacy too. I dutifully practised my MIG welding as shown but got told off for a few safety breaches when grinding. It was only then that I told Pat of my experience as a metalworker, he reminded me that I’d pose a bad example in this type of workshop. Considering the ubiquitous 4 ½ “grinder has been virtually an extension of my right arm for the last 20 years or so, I wasn’t really being reckless, I’ve just carried through older skills into a more risk averse modern environment . I deposited my next fees instalment of €2557 via the CIT website, I must try to roughly tally how much I’ve spent on education since 2011 when I started my degree
Thursday to Saturday: Garryhill