13 March 2013
Nicolas Bourriaud’s introduction to the English translation of Foucault’s lectures on Manet includes a discussion of heterotopia. Tellingly, I think, he uses the term ‘anti-location’ rather than the more common ‘counter-site’ to describe the distinctiveness of these spaces. Bourriaud links Foucault, Manet and Bataille in a discussion of the importance of the mirror in their respective work.
I have always felt that the mirror is a useful starting point in thinking about heterotopia. Foucault rather formally places it between heterotopia (real) and utopia (unreal). However, like mirrors, heterotopias evoke a sense of being there and not there, here and not here. Heterotopias have this quality in different ways, sites of intense time (fleeting as in fairs and brothels, permanent as in cemeteries, fixed as in prisons and boarding schools, indeterminate as in old people’s homes and asylums) or intense space (theatre’s stage, garden’s symbolism, ship’s passage) or intense time- space (utopian colony, primitive vacation village, museum, individual graves or cells) which alter or disrupt us as we enter. To various degrees, willingly or not, they take us outside ourselves as do the more hybrid heterotopias of more recent studies, for example, garden cemeteries that are also fleeting cruising grounds.