Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2nd assignment, despite floods

In “Panopticism” Foucault describes the mechanisms of power in modern society in terms of Bantham's idea for an efficient mode of incarceration. The structure of the panopticon allows for an authority to exert power without spending the energy (or capital) to actually put every inmate (or patient, student etc.) under constant surveillance. This mode relies on “disciplinary analysis” which is associated with the rise of the “human sciences” as well as binary modes of exclusion or confinement:

Treat 'lepers' as 'plague victims', project the subtle segmentations of discipline into the confused space of internment, combine it with the methods of analytical distribution proper to power, individualize the excluded, but use procedures of individualization to mark exclusion (199).”

In this way the panopticon mirrors modern society in that subjects of the state are forced to discipline themselves internally out of fear of surveillance, not its constant and guaranteed presence. Foucault's argument uses the example of how life was organized by authority in reaction to the Plague. He contrasts this method of organization with that of panopticism (both literally and socially) in arguing that the way power is exercised in modern times is “visible and unverifiable (201).” One fundamental aspect of this new form of power is the window, which enables the mere threat of surveillance to be enough. The windows in the panopticon allow for a one way power relationship in which, the inmate “is seen but he does not seen; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication (200).” Windows in the cell of the panopticon allow for the inmate to always be subject to surveillance, while the windows in the center block the guards from any glimpse from inmates. In much the same way, people in society are subjected to forces which propel them to internalize the disciplinary power held over them. In American society, we are always subject to surveillance, either in reality and ever more so in our virtual spaces.

Time Code is a work that exemplifies the panopticism in today's society, although the physical space aspect of the authority-”inmate” relationship is extrapolated liberally when talking about film, the actors, all seen simultaneously are trapped in the same one way method of observation:

The arrangement of his room, opposite the central tower, imposes on him an axial visibility; but the divisions of the ring, those separated, imply lateral invisibility (200).”

There is an axial visibility from the film screen, which acts like a window from which the viewer can watch the film actors without the risk of being spotted, to the film's audience. Furthermore, the distinct four-way split in the film operates like the windowless walls between cells in the panopticon, which restrict inter-inmate contact. Although Foucault piece discussed simple machines, when discussing the “machinery” of the panopticon, the the machinery of cinema certainly “that assures dissymmetry, disequilibrium, difference,” by its rhetorical, formal character, “Consequently it does not matter who exercises power (202).“

"Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce the inmate into a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assure the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if its discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should ted to render its actual exercise unnecessary (201).

Thus, regardless of who watches the film, and even in the case that it plays with no audience, the simultaneous performance will be the stay the same, as the in the film, the one instance of camera “surveillance” ensured a lifetime or identical reproduction and (re)presentation of the same performance “permanent in its effects, even if its discontinuous in its action.” Thus, despite the film being invented after the panopticon and its social triggers, it proves to be “still caught up in disciplinary technology (227)”