THE GIANT WITH 100 EYES
According to Ancient Greek myth, Argus Panoptes was a giant with 100 eyes (panoptes means “all seeing”) who served as an eternal watchmen, both for – and against – the gods. This mythic character is the inspiration for the design for the Argus exosuit. By embedding dozens of functional “eyes” into full body of tactical armor, the suit imbues the wearer with almost mythic powers: a 360’ field of perception, observation, recording and archiving. While the body armor is not designed to repeal brute force, every part of the body is able to “see” and “remember” creating a "force field of accountability” around the bodies of those who are targeted.
This same ancient ancient Greek myth also served as the inspiration for the modern Prison Industrial Complex and National Surveillance State. Jeremy Bentham, the 18th Century philosopher whose ideas were formative to the development of modern prisons, actually took the myth of Argus Panoptes as the inspiration for his incarceratory ideal: The Panopticon.
This prison model, wherein authorities reside at the center of a nexus of surveillance architecture, looking outward to stand watch over prisoners, has been a key influence in the design of prisons for centuries. It has also become the model for the modern surveillance state, wherein centralized intelligence agencies keep tabs on the general population using a host of technologies.
It was Bentham who was the first to articulate the direct connection between the ability to see others and having power to shape their behavior. Bentham stated: “If you think you're being watched, you'll be as good as if you actually are being watched.” Meaning, simply believing that one was being seen was enough to alter ones behavior.
It is this unequal power dynamic, between police and resident, between state and citizen, to which this project hopes to restore balance and accountability. If the power to surveil resides solely in the hands of the state, then the concept of democracy remains fundamentally impaired.
CREATING A COUNTERMYTH
In contrast to Bentham’s Panopticon, The Argus Project imagines an alternate, populist history of the ancient Argus myth. Instead of becoming an agent of the state, this superhero-like character is reframed as an agent of the public to hold the state accountable. The state is removed as the central agent of surveillance upon the citizen body, and replaced with the citizen body itself. The Argus Project posits that in a democracy, if there is to be an all-seeing giant at all, then it should be the people.