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'Nightwatchers' by Maurizio Vicerè at Display, Parma

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"It is still necessary to affirm that the engineers of repression are neither the technology, nor the technique, nor the machine, but the presence, in them, of the masters who determine their number, their short interval of life, their power, their place in life, and the desire for them? Is it still necessary to repeat that science and technology are the great vehicles of liberation, and that it is only their use and restriction in the repressive society that makes them vehicles of domination? " (1)

In the Empire of Image, voluntarism touches exhibitionism: only what is looked at is accepted, shared, is legitimized. The act of looking and being seen becomes concrete metaphors of identity. But it is a being seen not as a subject by other subjects, but as an amorphous material that seeks its form by exhibiting itself to an audience that, instead of dialoguing, registers only its exhibition. The gaze of the other becomes salvific: it is an objectifying gaze that does not help to reveal and reveal itself but induces dependence and conformism.

The network device - what Foucault defines as the Panoptic mechanism - is no longer just about the architecture of buildings - now totally domotized - or the structure of the power apparatuses - intimately robotized - but the social space as such.

The technology we feed on is immaterial enough to produce an "holistic look", an invisible and intangible cage. Or many cages, as many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible to a multiple mirror whose thousand faces reflect the same image.

 … Les miroirs sont les portes à travers lesquelles the Death va et vient. (2)

If the panoptic model designed by Bentham established a clear separation between the viewer and the observed, and therefore a hierarchy between those who exercise power and those who suffer it. A separation and a hierarchy totally overcome with the advent of the internet, since each subject agrees to be looked at in exchange for the privilege of looking at all the others: Synopticon. Constant surveillance - as well as all those modes of control that are based on the spatial metaphor of the gaze as an instrument of the observer's power with respect to the passively observed subject - is a mechanism of power over man not very far from what is established between servant and master, close to the idea of ​​voluntary servitude. Each of us is the controller of the other and at the same time controlled by the other. We live in a world where surveillance does not include a single control center, but is distributed and widespread. An almost perfect world to build malleable and above all self-domesticated, self-documented men.

We are in the darkness; nameless things with no memory - no knowledge of what went before, no knowledge of what is now, no knowledge of what will be.

We are in a cell covered with screens, which reproduce what happens in all the other cells; and this obviously in every cell, in every place and in a perennially present time. We are surrounded by mirroring spheres that, like magnets, attract and repel, transmit and receive perennially. Reflections capable of following every movement in space, of reproducing the tangibility of bodies in video surveillance images or traceability data. An "Other look" that does not judge but that simply dissociates the cognitive couple of seeing-being seen.

Surveillance replaced the show and the show became guarded.

Through digital prostheses, control becomes a spectacle of reality in which every boundary between Self and its replication fades: we re-live as a reflection in an algorithm, in the cloud, in the devices we use and in the data we produce. Mutual observation becomes a tacit routine practice favored by the same news feed mechanism. This form of ritualism generates a new mode of social control, a look and make oneself look that is at the root of the very logic on which sociality is based on the web. Whoever is subjected to a field of visibility, takes the constraints of power into his own account; makes them play spontaneously on themselves; it inscribes in itself the power relationship in which it plays two roles simultaneously, it becomes the principle of its own subjection.

Surveillance is here to stay, "its vocation is to become a generalized function". (4)

(1)  Herbert Marcuse, Saggio sulla liberazione.
(2)  Jean Cocteau, Orfeo (Orphée)1950.
(3)  "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" episodio n.79 della serie televisiva "Ai confini della realtà" (The Twilight Zone) 1959.

(4)  Michel Foucault, “Sorvegliare e punire. La nascita della prigione”, 1975.

— Giuseppe Pinto

11.5.19 — 5.6.19

Photo by Luca Tavera


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