The Pillory, 2017


Online you can find police photos or 'mugshots' of American detainees. The fact that these portraits are open to the public is disturbing to me, as a mugshot inherently carries a connotation of guilt, even though the detainees may be innocent civilians. In this way, the internet serves as a kind of pillory. 

In 1975 the French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote about a fictional prison, the Panopticon, whose construction would effectively teach prisoners to behave well. The prison is round and the prison cells form a circle with large windows facing a tower that stands in the middle. It cannot be seen from the outside if there is a guard present in the tower. «The inmate must never know whether he is being looked at, at any one moment: but he must be sure that he may always be so." After a while of surveillance and immediate punishment, the prisoners will internalize the behaviour they think is appropriate. They are so to speak, disciplined by the gaze of the guard.

What if it is not the gaze of the guard but the gaze from society? We live in a time where we are hyper focused on identity with seemingly ultimate freedom. Yet, through technological advances these identities are often either self-monitored or monitored by big data companies for commercial uses, or monitored in more dystopian ways by governments.

It intrigues me how much we are influenced and our identity is shaped by the gaze of others. Especially if it is a judging gaze. I started wondering if the arrestees on the found mugshots, would internalize the gaze of the online public and act upon the expectations contained in it. Would they become the person we think they are?
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