An Essay on the Panopticon in Music and Art
Hello everyone! I recently did an assignment for my cyber ethics class to read this article and respond to it with an essay. I've decided to also publish my essay here to Steem. Feel free to comment with your thoughts and feedback!
The Panopticon in Music and Art
The panopticon in modern society is quite an interesting concept to visualize. One thing worth pondering is the application of a panopticon to music and other forms of art. If one takes into consideration, each individual member of an audience, one can quickly find that artists must deal with a number of panopticons all at once. Artists cannot possibly take into account every experience each individual in an audience has had. These experiences shape their tastes, their philosophical views, their emotions, their logistical reasoning, and by consequence of these things, the ultimate way they view the piece. All of these things together construct a looming tower that the artist only knows is there. He does not know how secure its foundations, or how many bricks went into constructing it, nor does he know when the individual is watching with an eye of judgment as opposed to an eye of affirmation.
Now, multiply that panopticon by every individual member of the audience of viewers across space and time. The artist cannot see who is watching, and when they are watching. All he knows is that they, most definitely, are watching. Consider the political ramifications that a piece of art centuries old still holds. Consider every lens that can be taken to sculpt that work into a narrative; a narrative meant to shape the history of society, the modern culture, and the trajectory of that culture. The artist cannot visualize who is watching, and what they are doing with the artist’s work.
Now, consider the internet. The internet catalyzes this by making an artist’s work easily accessible across the globe. A world renowned work that used to be available only to the most fortunate and elite members of society, can now be found on google along with thousands of articles presenting individual viewers’ perspectives on the work. As this has progressed, we have seen great benefits, but also great ramifications. Whether justifiably or not, artists are now punished for their work in unpredictable ways. Whether minutes later or centuries later, group think may call for the destruction of the artist’s work due to the panopticon it has been viewed from. In life or in death, the artist is punished, and history is changed to fulfill a narrative dreamed by one and accelerated by many. The context in which the work was produced can sometimes be ignored, and the artist can be judged from a tower whose ever-changing parameters, the artist cannot even control. This leads to the thought of the societal panopticon created by our internet driven culture. The internet can create one societal panopticon by creating an echo chamber in which the intimacy of the traditional audience is abandoned in pursuit of a narrative. Often times, art is no longer presented as the artist’s struggle in pursuing the answer to a question, but rather as a product of the views of the audience. Things which do not relate whatsoever to the art, are now seen as completely attached to that art from the societal panopticon created by the internet.
In considering this, it is important for one to consider the boundless nature of art, and view it from their own experiences as opposed to the experiences presented to them by others. Truthfully, this is only one consequence of the internet, which, by virtue of its nature has many many benefits. It is just important to remember the context in which art is made, and to allow the individual to judge it from their own penopticon as opposed to the group from one societal penopticon.
Thanks for reading this!