MIKE CORRAO / ARGUS PANOPTES
“In the wake of what has happened, I’ve fallen back on a set of procedures which I think will, in the long run, ensure safety and security. Granted, most of these are based out of untested hypotheses, but so far they’ve succeeded in rendering me utterly alone. There has been no evident presence,” said the narrator.
“Most of my work has been focused around television. Thinking of ideological apparatuses, this seemed the most common. I know that most people have computers now, and that we’ve all moved on to the internet, but the television seems too obvious regardless. Outdated technology has an aura of innocence, liken to that of an elderly grandparent, past their prime in the retirement home. It seems too out of touch to have any real power. The utilization of this aura seems utterly genius in retrospect. With this in mind, I began to manipulate the object. I dismantled the monitor, searching for any irregularities. I found none in the face of the machine, or the circuitry which is contained in the back section. Consulting the manual, which itself may be untrustworthy, I tested the necessity of each component. The only irregularity that stuck out to me was the display itself. Not the technology which rendered it useful, but what was being shown. I came to the conclusion that the object itself was not surveillant, but was rather a medium which could receive and display the means of surveillance. I reassembled the television and began analyzing the images it had been transmitted,” said the narrator.
“The first dilemma which arose was the false color. Like a Seurat painting, everything that we are shown is a lie. Each darkness is made of small and minute assemblages of color. There are clusters of symbols, which when viewed from a distance, create new symbols, completely distinct from their parts. I froze the screen at frequent intervals and photographed it with a high-powered camera. I developed the images and I analyzed the arrangement of pixels,” said the narrator.
“I believe that there are messages in these strange arrangements. As a cautionary reaction, I’ve turned the television around. This way, it cannot watch me while I work. I’m ashamed to say how long it took me to think of this precaution. I’m not sure how much of the early stages of my work were viewed and recognized. I will say, that during my initial dismantling of the object, there was no technology which suggested a capability of transmitting sound. Any surveilled information has been strictly visual. This doesn’t greatly reduce the possibility that I’ve been surveilled, but I do find solace in the fact that they can no longer see or hear me, at least through this object. I’m sure there are other tools present on the walls or ceiling, or something like that,” said the narrator.
“In the pixel arrangements, I have found clear sets of eyes, all focused on me, wherever I stand. I’ve been having strange dreams lately. The television sits in the center of the room, turns around, as I approach it and begin to work, it slowly turns around. It grows long legs, and approaches me. It gazes down at me and it says, ‘I am Argus Panoptes, with a hundred eyes. You must remain.’ No matter where I go in the room, his eyes follow me, each pixel on the screen faces me.
“I know about what has been going on. I know about who has been watching me, if anyone really has. It’s become obvious. I imagine all of the riots that must still be going on. I’m not sure if the siege has continued, or if one side has triumphed over the other. It seems romantic to think I could receive information on my end, the way they do on theirs.
“Looking around, I’m curious how signals are being received by the television. So far, all I have been shown is static and this fake darkness. There are no overt symbols to be seen. I fear that there is some psychoanalytic aspect to what I have been shown, that these colors have infiltrated my brain, through the eyes, like a worm crawling in through the pores and up into the cerebellum. My dreams permeate with an air of paranoia. I’ve become uncertain if everything that comes out of the unconscious is mine, or someone else’s, if it’s artificial or genuine. Furthermore, I don’t know how I could test this. I’ve begun to hypothesize a series of examinations, in which I might conclude whether or not I am myself exclusively. I thought initially that it might work similar to split hemispheres. I show one eye one thing, and the other eye something else. Now I’m concerned that if this infiltration was optical, that I must treat my eyes as one hemisphere and my brain as the other. I’ve found no conclusion so far.
“Another dream. Argus Panoptes grew out of the television again. He followed me around for a while until I was finally exhausted. I sat down, and eventually he seemed bored of me. He approached the wall, and waited for a moment. Arms sprung out from the side of the monitor and he climbed up the wall, tearing open the crease where the ceiling and the wall meet. I saw spotlights above, held in place by scaffolding. I tried to climb up the walls, but there was nothing to grab onto. Once I began to move again, his head appeared in the tear. He watched me like a child playing with a dollhouse. I felt like a manipulated toy. He said, ‘You must remain.’ I sat and did nothing,” said the narrator.
“I’m worried most, that there is nothing to find in the pixels, that they’re a red herring set up to keep me busy while they continue to watch me. Maybe I missed the sound component that’s supposed to transmit information back to them. Maybe they’ve heard everything I’ve said. I try not to speak, but at this point, it’s hard not to. I have an irrational fear that if I remain silent for too long, that my voice will disappear permanently.
“The Argus Panoptes has escaped my dreams. I can feel the infinite amount eyes surrounding me. I know that it was a dream when he tore through the wall. I know that this is not a sound stage, and that there is no one behind these walls. But by now, after however long it has been, I’m not sure how I arrived here in the first place. I don’t know if my memories are failing me, or if they have been taken from me. I think I’m beginning to run out of paranoia. I’ve spent so much time worrying that my willpower to do so is disappearing,” said the narrator.
“Everything is not gone. I know that there are eyes in the pixel arrangements. I haven’t given up on studying them. I just feel myself exhausted by this duration. I know this is how codes are being sent. I’m not an idiot. I can see that these symbols act as some kind of language, and that they are meant to transmit information. I only have two questions left. I want to know what they specifically mean, and I want to know if they’re meant to be read consciously or unconsciously. I have to admit though, I don’t know how to go any further than I already have.”
The narrator said: “There was another dream, or a vision, or a fake memory. I’m worried that I’ve been suffering from fake memories lately. I saw Argus Panoptes come back. He crawled in through the tear he made in the ceiling. It was foaming with static and pixels. They’d coagulated into this strange and syrupy fluid. I watched him climb through it, sticking his hands and feet against the fluid, and using it to limber down the wall and onto the floor. His eyes seemed directionless and autonomous. They looked in all different directions at every aspect of the room. He said quietly: ‘There are good reasons to stay here.’ and then sat down where he had been before. I told him to turn around, and he did.
“My reading of the symbols has taken a backseat while I’ve tried to determine the legitimacy of these pervasive images. I examined the walls and the ceiling, and I haven’t been able to find a tear. I can’t reach up to feel if there’s any patch work, but it doesn’t look like there has been. I’ve grown increasingly untrustworthy of my eyes,” said the narrator.
“I’ve come to envy the elderly Oedipus, and the way that he has gone blind. He doesn’t have to see all of the horrors that he’s caused. I don’t know if I’m the type of villain that he is. I don’t think that I’ve done anything so bad. But I’ve come to trust myself so little. The idea that I might be able to exist without having to see these images has become a romantic thought,” said the narrator.
“Voices grew from inside the static. I didn’t notice it at first, but eventually the sound grew from a drone to a buzz, and later on to a shouting and whining. I’ve tried to remain focused on interpreting symbols. I’ve futzed with possible meanings and linguistic apparatuses. I’ve found sets of eyes in every pixel. There has been evidence of Argus, but no clear presence. I find us limited in our relationship. We are in conversation, yes, but only retrospectively. I can remember him, but I can never find myself truly in front of him, interacting with him. It seems foolish to approach the television, to turn it around, or feel around the edges for evidence. He appeared so subdued after his return. I’m worried that he’s trying to speak with me, or that I’ve been conditioned to feel this way. The whining reminds me of an upset child or an emergency siren. I don’t want to hear it. I try and return to my work instead.
“No new dreams. No new memories,” said the narrator.
“I thought that the way to overcome this act of surveillance would be through the use of meticulous processes, but I don’t feel any closer to an answer. I’ve run out of paranoia and my eyes have fallen into degradation. I’ve seen these symbols so many times that they look completely foreign to me. I think that the act of studying has only made every obvious answer unbelievably distant and elusive. I’ve fallen into these fits of romanticism. I want there to be an answer, but reality has seemed to gray and dilute. There are no clear moments anymore. I feel it all blurring together and obscuring into some hybrid existence. Nothing new has arisen out of my head. It has all been mutations and combinations of past events. They only look new. They do not act any differently.
“Argus Panoptes remains where he is, facing the wall, his eyes motionless,” said the narrator. “I want to go blind. I want him to go blind. I want to pluck every single pixel out of his head. I know who he is. I’ve seen all of these images, of the bastard standing over his field, watching cattle wander around, watching foreign ships come into shore. He’s a dead man. He shouldn’t be in my head like this, and yet he is. I don’t know what there is to say about that. I don’t know how he got there. But it feels like my entire existence has been interrupted by this persistent fly. I don’t know where I’m supposed to go from here. I’ve seen all of it, and nothing has happened. No new dreams. No new memories,” said the narrator.
Mike Corrao is a young writer working out of Minneapolis. He was a 2016 artist-in-residence for Altered Esthetics. His work has been featured in publications such as Entropy, Cleaver, decomP, and Fanzine. Further information can be found at www.mikecorrao.com.