Limerick, Ireland

Mark Clare

b. 1968, England/Ireland

Morals reformed – health preserved – industry invigorated – instruction diffused – public burdens lightened – all by a simple idea in Architecture!

— Jeremy Bentham, 1791

The 18th-century utopian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, had a concept of design called a panopticon, which would allow an observer to view all prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a ‘sentiment of an invisible omniscience’. In his own words, Bentham described the panopticon as ‘a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example’.

In the 1930s, in an effort to define the borders of a modern Israel, the Jewish settlers devised the homa umigdal or wall-and-tower settlements. It was the first expression of the Jewish native architectural tradition known as adrikhalut. This architectural phenomenon was initiated and conducted almost ‘without architects’ in the service of political objectives. The system was based on a hasty construction of a wall made of prefabricated wooden moulds filled with gravel and surrounded by a barbed wire fence. In the centre, a 12m-high prefabricated wooden tower commanded the view of the surrounding area.

Splendid Isolation consists of a tower replicating the ones used by the Jewish settlers, and is approximately 8 metres tall. The tower works on many different levels: while functioning as an architectural structure, it also examines the role of monumental sculpture as a form of celebration utilised throughout cities. It is rooted in the history of imperialism and colonisation throughout the world. It relates not only to the process in which cities are initiated, but also to the modern phenomenon of 24-hour surveillance within modern society, and our acceptance for such a need.

(Text: too early for vacation catalogue, 2008)

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