Robin Rhode
Pan’s Opticon Studies, 2009

Rhode’s artworks include site-specific wall paintings, drawings, performances, photograph series, videos and sculptures. Their central themes include race affiliation, class and geopolitics. Pan’s Opticon Studies, 2009, shows a young colored person in a suit and hat, his face turned away from the viewer. His eyes are connected to the wall by an architect’s compass or forceps which evoke associations of anthropological measuring instruments. These technical devices suggest that our view of the world can be defined by constructive and cognitive processes but is also determined by them. The Pan’s Opticon Studies research differences and similarities between the process of visual perception and the process of art production. The title of the series is a play on ‘panopticon’ – a prison building conceived by the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in which all the inmates can be observed from a central location without their knowledge. Here, Rhode’s doppelgänger is using an architect’s compass as a tool of ‘mass observation’, while the figure represents ‘Pan’, a fictional human character, under the ‘stress of observation’.

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