17 October 2005
A new installation by internationally renowned artist Sarah Beddington and curated by James Putnam has been unveiled in UCL's South Cloisters. The 'Panoptiscope' - commissioned by UCL's Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology - utilises an existing kiosk originally used for a security warden.
Situated opposite the auto-icon of UCL's spiritual founder Jeremy Bentham, the Panoptiscope focuses on a year in the life of the museum's namesake Sir William Flinders Petrie. Between 1889 and 1890, Petrie made excavations near Lahun. Sarah Beddington has juxtaposed excerpts from Petrie's journal of the excavations with ant-eaten fragments of Papyrus texts found at the site. By etching the texts on the windows of the kiosk, she has created a dialogue between an ancient society and its excavator.
The Petrie Museum has one of the greatest collections of Sudanese and Egyptian archaeology in the world. UCL is currently in a fundraising drive to re-house and display the 80,000 objects in the collection in a purpose-built museum - the Panopticon.
The name Panopticon originates from the Greek words 'pan' - meaning 'all' - and 'optikos' - meaning 'of sight'. It was Jeremy Bentham's visionary design for a penitentiary, where all inmates could be continuously surveyed from a central watchtower without actually being able to see the wardens. With reference to the idea, Sarah Beddington's work must be peered into before it gives up its secrets.