From 27 – 29 March 2014 at Grange Dorigny, Lausanne [click for full information]
19 March 2014
10 December 2013
Thanks to Foucault News for alerting us to the work of the theatre group Le collectif F71. The ensemble have been exploring Foucault’s thought since 2004. In November 2005 their first work, 71 Foucault, was performed at the Theatre Studio in Alfortville on the outskirts of Paris. Since then they have produced a series of collaborations, looking particularly at Foucault’s militant period, including La Prison in 2006.
Interestingly, their present project is Notre Corps Utopique which explores the text of the radio talk given by Foucault on France-Culture in 1966. This talk formed a pair with Les Hétérotopies, Foucault’s first account of the spaces of heterotopia.
The texts of the talks are available in a small book:
Foucault, M. (2010)  ‘Les Corp Utopique, Les Hétérotopies’, with introduction by D. Defert. Clamercy: Éditions Lignes.
16 October 2013
The French photographer Vincent J Stoker has released some new photographs in his series ‘Heterotopia: the end of history‘. He explains:
“The end of History” affirms a faith in man’s ability to surpass his own condition. Belief in progress finds expression in Hegel’s “The end of History”. Reason and technique should bring about the resolution of conflicts, heralding an age free of tension and beyond the boundaries of contradiction. The places in the series “Heterotopia; The end of history” are self- imposed through their monolithic rigidity and appear as unalterable truths. The colossal face of these sculptures exudes that which seems eternally enduring. In an instant the gaze is seduced into forgetting and contesting the truth portrayed in “Heterotopia; The tragic downfall” which exposes the vanity of the monument and the precarious nature of society. Belief in progress is irresistible. In flattering the eye it blinds us. Standing in the middle of this artificial rowdiness, this excess of civilisation perfectly detached from nature – a nature that appears here as an object for mourning – the viewer loses their footing, falling deeper into an abyss of culture. The dazzled gaze is overpowered. In a futile search for clarity, little by little, it allows itself to be swallowed whole. Man, as part of nature, is no more. He has entered the end of History, a time wherein his putrescent matter vanishes within the inorganic entrails of this surgical topography.
The series will be shown in Galerie Alain Gutharc, in Paris. Opening on 24 October 2013. Then it will be presented by the same gallery in Paris Photo in mid November.
Here is an examples from this new work which he has kindly allowed us to publish – for more see website.
3 June 2013
Of the myriad of applications of heterotopia, there has been minor take up by artists. Literary, cultural and media studies are awash with papers that explore the notion of these ‘other spaces’, and architectural heterotopia is well established, but as yet visual, environmental and performing art has remained marginal in this enterprise.
Birringer’s article on Makrolab (1998) is the exception here, but interestingly, Defert (1997), Foucault’s long-term partner, ends his essay on heterotopia by evoking the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who had recently produced an ‘experimental heterotopian environment’ in Manhattan. Genocchio , in an essay that explores the complexity of interpreting the notion of heterotopia, also ends his reflection by reference to an art work: an environmental installation by Australian artist Denis del Favero.
I was really excited therefore to recently discover the current critically appraised work by Vincent J Stoker, a French photographer who gives the name ‘heterotopia’ to all his work. I hope to bring to you more of his art and reflect on it further, but what is refreshing is that he brings a new perspective on these elusive spaces. A series of photographs encapsulate what I have called in an essay ‘utopian debris’ or fragments of utopia.
For more see:
Birringer, J. (1998) ‘Makrolab: A Heterotopia’ Journal of Performance and Art 20 (3) 66-75.
Defert, D. (1997) ‘Foucault, Space, and the Architects’ in Politics/Poetics: Documenta X – The Book, Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz Verlag, 274-283.
Genocchio, B. (1995) ‘Discourse, Discontinuity, Difference: the Question of Other Spaces’ in S. Watson and K. Gibson (eds.), Postmodern Cities and Spaces, Oxford: Blackwell 35-46.
13 May 2013
As some may know, I am a bit of a purist in terms of my interpretation of heterotopia. I at least start by concentrating on the actual sites mentioned by Foucault in his lecture on the topic rather than conjuring up alternative spaces, although there are obviously many more than Foucault imagined.
One space that Foucault outlines in his lecture but which has not received much attention by commentators are the Jesuit settlements founded in Paraguay during the 17th and 18th centuries. These mission settlements were also known as the ‘reductions’, taken from the Latin verb ‘reducere’, to lead back.
Foucault describes how the settlement was laid out ‘according to an arrangement around a rectangular plaza with a church at the far end; on one side the secondary school, on the other the cemetery…’ and with the huts for each family built along two axes that produced the cross of Christ. Everything in the settlement was regulated meticulously, including times to wake, eat, work, sleep and have sexual intercourse.
For Foucault this is heterotopia at the ‘level of the general organisation of terrestrial space’. Like the brothel, these spaces have a role in relation to remaining space, but here rather than the ‘illusion’ of the bordello, the settlement forms a site of ‘compensation’ producing ‘a different space, a different real space, as perfect as meticulous, as well organised as ours is disorganised, badly arranged and muddled.
Such a localised utopia has resemblances to prisons, boarding schools, early factories, monasteries, modern cemeteries and, perhaps, shopping malls: a regulated reduction of living space, but here on the scale of a whole village settlement.
20 August 2012
Foucault’s radio talk on heterotopia has not been translated into English as yet (although I understand this may be on the way). I like the passage about children’s imaginative local utopias so much that I have translated it as below (thanks to my partner, Paul, for his guidance):
These counter-spaces, these locally realised utopias, are well recognised by children. Certainly, it’s the bottom of the garden; it’s the Indian tent erected in the middle of the attic; or still, it’s Thursday afternoons on their parent’s bed. It is on that bed where they discover the ocean, as they can swim between the covers, and the bed is also the sky, or they can bounce on the springs; it’s the forest as they can hide there; or still, it’s night as they can become ghosts between the sheets and, finally, it’s the delight, as their parents come home, as they will be punished (Foucault, 2010: 24).
Foucault. M. (2010) Les Corps Utopique, Les Hétérotopies, with introduction by D. Defert, Clamecy: Éditions Lignes.
#Last post for a week or so as moving house!