Art Now: The Darks: Ruth Ewan and Astrid Johnston
Tate Britain: Exhibition

The audio tour lasts 50 minutes.
Pick up (and drop off) an audio device from the Millbank Entrance information desk

Part of the series Art Now

Playing on the format of a museum audio guide, The Darks audio tour invites visitors to navigate the area around Tate Britain, once the site of the infamous Millbank Prison

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  • The Darks audio tour - Tate Britain commission
    Jeremy Bentham, Panopticon or the inspection house, c. 1787. Courtesy ofUCLSpecial Collections (not as original, digitally enhanced)
  • The Darks audio tour timeline - Tate Britain commission
    Ruth Ewan and Astrid Johnston, timeline for The Darks, 2014
  • The Darks audio tour - Tate Britain commission
  • The Darks audio tour - Tate Britain commission
  • The Darks audio tour - Tate Britain commission

By exploring both the prison’s utopian origins and its brutal reality, the tour investigates ideas around privacy, social control and power relations, past and present.

Utopian dream to hellish reality

The original plan for Millbank Prison, which opened in 1816, was for a Panopticon. The design for such a building, conceived by Jeremy Bentham in the late 18thcentury, would allow a single watchman to observe all inmates of an institution.

The Panopticon has long been a byword for absolute power, discipline and control. The Darks audio tour touches on the utopian dream at its heart, and how this optimism switched into the hellish reality of what followed.

Your audio guides

Narrated by Carolyn Pickles, this audio guide also features real and fictional accounts of passers-by, including novelist Charles Dickens and writer and reformer Henry Mayhew, inmates such as Irish political prisoner Dennis B Cashman (who was transported to Australia from Millbank) and one-time prison governor, Arthur Griffiths.

Words scratched onto coins by unknown prisoners are also heard among the fragmented voices that make up The Darks.

This commission has been curated by Helen Delaney