Artist Jennifer Moon has produced and installed a new work, Will You Still Love Me: Learning To Love Yourself, It Is The Greatest Love Of All, in a glass vitrine in the lobby of the Equitable Life Building on Wilshire Boulevard. The midcity skyscraper was built in 1969 by prominent modernist architect Welton Beckett, and the lobby vitrines are part of an ongoing project called Equitable Vitrines, in which artists are invited to curate site-specific exhibitions of their work as part of a three month residency program.
For her project, Jennifer Moon–the recent winner of the Hammer Museum’s juried Mohn Award–has installed a series of television screens that face the main lobby entrance and display feeds from live surveillance cameras placed in the artist’s house and car. When I arrived, Moon was sitting in front of the TV in her living room, eating and browsing on her cellphone. As office workers began to leave for the day, some remarked that they check in on her every morning and evening, and see her making the bed, showering, parking her car outside on Wilshire. “Will You Still Love Me?” the vitrine asks, and each TV is accompanied by a quote from a famous figure about love. The feeds remind viewers of our desperate cravings for attention, exacerbated by the nagging presence of social media–and the need to “share” our lives with others in real time.
On the backside of the lobby, another vitrine reveals a deeper meaning for the project, one more in line with Moon’s practice–and reflecting the influences of Marxism, French critical theory, and psychobiology. The display case reads “Learning to Love Yourself, It Is the Greatest Love of All” and holds a multi-paneled presentation on green foamcore and scissor-cut printer paper that looks like a high school science project. In it Moon introduces Jeremy Bentham’s design for the Panopticon, an octagonal prison with a central tower that enabled maximum surveillance of prisoners.
At once, the TVs in the front of the lobby become a kind of panopticon. Alongside a comical diagram of a panopticon, each chamber holding the head of Moon bearing a different expression, Moon quotes Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and asserts that “technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society.” She then asks if oppressive panopticons can be replaced by a panopticon of love, a society in which individuals share and receive each others’ emotions openly.
Although comical in its use of DIY, elementary school aesthetics, Moon’s project makes a powerful statement. Installed in the lobby of an imposing, sterile corporate highrise, it questions the way bureaucracy, surveillance, and impersonal systems of control affect all facets of our daily lives, and asks us to love a little more.