Tate Britain

Art Now The Darks: Ruth Ewan and Astrid Johnston

Main Floor

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

Jeremy Bentham, Panopticon or the inspection house, c. 1787. Courtesy of UCL Special Collections (not as original, digitally enhanced)

Explore the area around Tate Britain, once the site of the infamous Millbank Prison with The Darks audio tour 

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

Pen drawing of a series of circles with writing in it, like a mind map

Ruth Ewan and Astrid Johnston, timeline for The Darks, 2014

Photograph of a close up of Tate Britain's building showing a damaged head statue with wording 'Tate Britain' above it

© Ana Escobar, Tate Photography

Photograph of a women with headphones standing facing the river Thames on Millbank

© Ana Escobar, Tate Photography

A woman stands with headphones in an alley with laundry hanging up

© Ana Escobar, Tate Photography

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.


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