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 18th century, 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
About Art Now
Art Now is a series of displays at Tate Britain focusing on new and recent work by emerging artists. Since the early 1990s, Art Now has recognised talent at its outset and provided a launching platform for artists who went on to become established figures in the British and international art scene.