Panelists discuss architecture and surveillance

“Early Warning Systems” panel talk between Charles Stankievech and David Murakami Wood

David Murakami Wood is a research chair in Queen’s department of surveillance studies.
Image by: Alex Pickering
David Murakami Wood is a research chair in Queen’s department of surveillance studies.

Little did we know how much surveillance technology, architecture and the history of warfare had in common until Charles Stankievech and David Murakami Wood came together.

On Jan. 14, Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC) saw over 50 people crowd in to hear the panel discussion between Stankievech and Murakami Wood on “Early Warning Systems”. Early Warning Systems refer to the functions of surveillance and intelligence. They’re commonly used to gain information on an event beforehand using advanced predicative technology.

Stankievech conducts independent research on surveillance and architecture, which influences his artwork. His work focuses heavily on images of discarded World War II bunkers, exploring the broader context of their architectural design through conceptual representation. Stankievech often references the centered “chunk” shapes of the bunkers in his scale models.

He also uses the abandoned bunkers in their natural habitats as his muses for black and white photography and videography.

“All of the architecture I’m showing you was kind of a failure,” said Stankievech during a power point presentation on the WWII bunkers, which display an “inside looking out” form of surveillance in their construction.

“But one of the important things we can learn out of this is the [systems] that were built out of these.” Stankievech focused much of his talk on panopticon, which refers to the transference from a centralized action of sensing to a decentralized action of sensing.

He referenced a jailhouse designed by architect Jeremy Bentham in 1787, which was set up so that the prisoner could be observed without knowing. He discussed the idea of the “modern psyche which is under surveillance” and the subsequent effects on our everyday life.

Stankievech also said fieldwork is the most important part of what he does when researching the WWII bunkers, which he considers his muses.

“There’s a value to physically going to these sites and understanding them,” he said.

After Stankievech finished his talk, David Murakami Wood, a research chair in the department of surveillance studies at Queen’s, took the stage. He offered insight into the modern surveillance centres that exist, pinpointing different examples in England, Japan and Australia on Google Maps.

Murakami Wood’s presentation further enhanced the ideas that Stankievech discussed. By giving the audience modern-day examples of surveillance technology, he was able to draw a connection between the abstract concepts and real life usages of Early Warning Systems.


Art, talk

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