WorldWide Monitor - The Surveillance Company celebrates Jeremy Bentham
"Call them soldiers,
call them machines:
so they were but happy ones,
I should not care." Jeremy Bentham
Year is 2002; Thompson Merrimack the Chairman of WorldWide Monitor hosts the celebration of Jeremy Bentham the grandfather of the Surveillance Society featuring performance by Surveillance Chamber Music Society.
In a system of total surveillance, there is no need for arms, physical violence, material constraints. Just a gaze. In the end, philosopher Michel Foucault said, each individual will internalize this gaze 'to the point that he is his own supervisor ... exercising this surveillance over himself. WorldWide Monitor believes western civilization can achieve this goal and is looking back to history of the struggle for the Surveillance Society for inspiration. Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon is an architectural design, which was the most influential theoretical concept to developing systems of penal surveillance in the 18th century. By allowing guards, prison wardens, and visitors to observe inmates without the inmates seeing them, Bentham’s Panopticon offered a tremendous boon to surveillance techniques, and particularly to psychological control, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Prophetically, Jeremy Bentham did not limit applications of his Panopticon to the penitentiary, but thought it would work well for "Houses of Industry, Workhouses, Poor Houses, Manufactories, Madhouses, Lazarettos, Hospitals, and Schools."
Through its famous arts program WorldWide Monitor has selected the finest musicians for the Surveillance Chamber Music Society by watching hours of surveillance tapes taken from the world’s leading concert venues. Constant monitoring of their practicing and rehearsing has brought them to an even higher level. Tonight’s performance by the extraordinarily well-monitored Surveillance Chamber Music Society is dedicated to Jeremy Bentham.
Composer and performer Victoria Jordanova is joined by California E.A.R. Unit in the performance of Jordanova's work "Panopticon". A three-movement work, scored for harp, flute, harmonica, 5 string electric violin and percussion, "Panopticon" is Jordanova's meditation on unease, spies, jitters, and mechanics. Conceived before the events of 9/11. Jordanova melds experimental techniques with her classical training to create "surreal expressions of haunting beauty" that have become eerily more relevant day by day in this fast changing world. The performance is set in the context of spy cameras, audio sensors and prepared video.
Acclaimed as "the wizards of New Music the" California E.A.R. Unit, is the ideal performing tour-de force for "Panopticon". Extraordinary musicians, Dorothy Stone, flute, Robin Lorentze, electric violin, Amy Knoles, percussion, together with Jordanova, playing harp and harmonica, are melding music imagery of the score with live and prepared video imagery of artist Relja Penezic, using miniature spy cameras attached on the wrists, and bodies of other players and audio sensors.
The theatrical dimensions in this concert add to the atmosphere and feeling that in modern surveillance society Big Brother is becoming a Bother. Jordanova is widely known for her composition "Requiem for Bosnia" (CRI recording, Top-Ten Classical recordings in 1994 New York News Day) described by Tim Page as "haunting music for harp, tape and broken piano. Politics and music rarely combined with such felicity and dignity..." In "Panopticon" Jordanova addresses through music a situation that has moved to the forefront of social thought: how our desire and need for safety and certainty in our world, turns into control and the invasion of privacy.
This film is based on a live performance by Victoria Jordanova and California E.A.R. Unit at the Bing Theater (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) on November 25 2002. The Panopticon is an interdisciplinary piece exploring Surveillance Society. Music of Jordanova, video, history, spy cameras, and audio sensors merge to address issues of privacy in contemporary society. Performers include California E.A.R. Unit, Victoria Jordanova, and Jeffery Atik. Directed by Relja Penezic.