Artists respond to heterotopia

‘I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge, but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, and idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind and catch the sea-foam in the breeze and scatter it’

Foucault in ‘The Masked Philosopher’ (1980)


The model of heterotopia is being explored by artists in paintings, collages, photographs, films and installations.  Examples include:

1.Åsdam Knut’s works as a film-maker, installation artist, sculptor and photographer. He has written an important essay on ‘Art, pornography and heterotopia’ – knut-asdam-article-pdf.

Knut’s wider work is explored in:

Knut Åsdam: The Long Gaze The Short Gaze (2011). Essays by Kaja Silverman, Philippe Pirotte, Simon Sheikh – a result of Åsdam’s 2010 exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall.

2. Fiona Ackerman’s paintings have explored the art studio and gardens through the lens of heterotopia.

Heterotopia  (2011) acrylic and oil on canvas.
Revolution (2016) oil and acrylic on canvas.

3. Many of Vincent J Stoker’s photographs re-interpret heterotopia.

Heterotopia - Autopsy of a Dream (Vincent J Stoker)
Heterotopia – Autopsy of a Dream
Heterotopia - The tragic fall - Hétérotopie #HEFMI - 135 x 170 cm
Heterotopia – The tragic fall

4. French artist  Thierry Fournier explores heterotopia as a network of interfaces and surfaces intimately coupling people and diverse forms of technology.

5. Lien Truong’s paintings include work that  embraces heterotopias ‘as sites that mirror, distort, and invert other spaces‘.


‘Heterotopias as Other’, Solo Exhibition, Nhà Sàn Art Space, 24 Lý Quốc Sư Hoàn KiếmHanoi, Vietnam. August 5-16, 2015


6. Karine Laval’s artistic practice encompasses photography, video and installation/projection and a recent body of her work explores gardens and heterotopia.


7. As seen in his exhibition, ‘The View of Heterotopos’, You Jin’s work references many contemporary spatial ideas, including heterotopia.

8. ‘Lost and Found‘ – a collaborative installation by artists Patrick Holley, Chris Lillywhite and April Virgoe – explores Foucault’s heterotopia par excellence: the ship.

9. ‘Tokyo Heterotopia’ is a theatrical investigation into urban otherness in Tokyo by Akira Takayama. The project first appeard at the Festival Tokyo 2013 as a theatrical performance radio tour. It is now available  as a digital application on iPhone and smartphone.

10. One of the most remarkable heterotopic renditions of heterotopia is found in ‘Heterotopia in the Lavatory, a photo-performance project undertaken by Irene Fernández Ramos. Irene reproduces classical paintings inside airplane toilets. See also Nina Katchadoorian who has ben involved in a similar project for many years.

Michael Sweert – Boy in a Turban Holding a Nosegay (1658-1661)

11. Shezad Dawood published a book (2013) on the occasion of an exhibition: Black Sun: Alchemy, Diaspora and Heterotopia. Dawood integrates the concept here and there, particularly in relation to a film by Maya Deren: Meshes of the Afternoon (1943).

Dawood, S. (2013) Black sun: alchemy, diaspora and heterotopia, London:  Ridinghouse.


12. The Venice Biennale frequently presents exhibitions related to heterotopia. Here are two from 2019:

Heterotopias of Evocation

Dr Hesperia Iliadou Suppiej (lead curator), Vince Briffa (artist), Klitsa Antoniou (artist), Trevor Borg (artist) and Perit Matthew Joseph Casha (architect/designer). Borg, Briffa and Antoniou. 

Heterotopia 1: The Academy of Fine Arts of Venice and Flash Art Presentation

Peter Halley (Curated by Gea Politi)

[Peter Halley’s Heterotopia 11 followed late 2019 with exhibition at Greene Natftali Gallery in Chelsea (Manhattan)].

View of installation Heterotopia 11 (Peter Halley)


revised page January 2020


  1. Jackie
    March 27, 2019 @ 1:15 pm

    In terms of the airplane project – to give credit where credit is due – Nina Katchadoorian has been doing an ongoing bathroom portrait series (and other airplane works) for almost 10 years, and started the fad.


    • Peter Johnson
      March 29, 2019 @ 12:49 pm

      Thanks for that information.


    • Peter Johnson
      March 29, 2019 @ 12:55 pm

      Have now included mention of Nina Katchadoorian’s work above.


  2. Peter Johnson
    April 3, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

    And for 2018:

    ‘The biscuit collection of Michel Foucault’, a set of prints to communicate Michel Foucault’s philosophies of heterotopias and utopias.


  3. Peter Johnson
    April 3, 2018 @ 1:15 pm

    See also Travis McEwen exploring the themes of gender identity, queerness, science fiction, and the abstract in his exhibit: The Arch: Plans for a Heterotopic Space Opera (September 2017).


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