Reflecting upon the transformation of surveillance techniques since the panopticon to include contemporary 3-D facial recognition, AI, and the Internet, Shu Lea Cheang’s 3x3x6 restages the rooms of the Palazzo delle Prigioni—a Venetian prison from the sixteenth century in operation until 1922—as a high-tech surveillance space. Taking as its starting point the story of libertine writer Giacomo Casanova, imprisoned in the Prigioni in 1755, Cheang has conducted in-depth studies on ten historical and contemporary cases of subjects incarcerated because of gender or sexual dissent, including Marquis de Sade and Michel Foucault, as well as contemporary cases from Taiwan and South Africa. Their fictionalized portraits become part of the exhibition’s system; the title of which refers to today’s standardized architecture of industrial imprisonment: a 3 x 3 square-meter cell constantly monitored by 6 cameras.
Cheang departs from the architecture of the panopticon to construct the central space of the exhibition in Room A: the surveillance tower has been inverted to project the portraits of the ten prisoners and connected up to a newly developed 3-D camera surveillance system, which installed at the entrance of the exhibition scans the visitors’ faces—by electing to enter the exhibition they are accepting to become part of the system and to having their face modified. Here, gender and racial morphing become queer digital strategies to disrupt the tradition of colonial and anthropometric identification techniques, extending from Alphonse Bertillon’s criminological photography of the nineteenth century to today’s facial recognition technologies. Connected to the Internet 3x3x6 allows visitors (both physical and virtual) to send selfies and images to the exhibition system. The visitors are thus inside the total surveillance apparatus. Moving into Rooms B and C of the updated Prigioni, the physical visitors then wander into a maze of monitors that unfold the stories of the ten prisoners across time and space, histories and cultures. Whereas in the eighteenth century Casanova’s libertinage and Sade’s atheist negation of morality were the object of surveillance and discipline, in contemporary technopatriarchal digital conditions, the black man constructed as “rapist,” the HIV-positive homosexual, the transgender person, as well as women constructed as sexual e-hunters and witches are the new subjects beyond the law. Finally, in Room D, visitors are invited to discover the control room and the very operating system of the surveillance apparatus in function.
Hacking digital surveillance technologies and social media, Cheang uses the site of the prison to create a real-time dissident interface that the visitor is invited to join. Involving legal documents, fake news, historical reports, myths and fantasies, as well as the data retrieved from 3-D surveillance cameras and the images uploaded by visitors, the exhibition constructs a collective counter-history of sexuality—where trans-punk- science fiction, queer, and anti-colonial imaginations provide visual and critical frameworks to think through the histories of subjection and resistance—and activates a critical proliferation of poetic and political actions for digital times. A contribution to the digital avant-garde, Cheang’s 3x3x6 equally challenges the aesthetics of Internet global capitalism and the gender, sexual, and race norms that hold up its hidden infrastructure.
普里奇歐尼宮（Palazzo delle Prigioni）是威尼斯從十六世紀起一直使用到1922年的監獄。