Selected Courses on Digital Art-UOWM

18 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

Filed under: Notes — admin @ 23:12

or the last ‘episode’ of this series of articles around the work of Michel Foucault, I would like to evoke the second favorite Foucauldian concept (the first one being the panopticon) that architects like to use, the heterotopia. As a matter of fact, this term, dropped in the architectural discourse became almost an argument in itself like an incantation – and I plead guilty about that myself for having used it often without any real meaningful deepening. The responsibility for that can only be half devolved to architects as this concept has been only loosely defined by Foucault himself, who was probably not considering it as one of his strongest inventions.

The word heterotopia is first used by Foucault in his preface of The Order of Things (1966) for which the topos (space) involved is a metaphorical space in the language. Few months later, he dedicates one of his two lectures for the radio broadcast France Culture (audio at the end of the article) -the other one being the Utopian Body quoted in another article– to this concept. In 1967 eventually, he writes a text entitled Of Other Spaces (text at the end of the article), which transcribes the radio lecture on paper and add to it a list of principles that defines the heterotopia. Two main characteristics of those ‘other spaces’ consists in their circumscription by a clear border as well as the prevalence of specific rules that are applied on this territory.
The examples given by Foucault are so various (gardens, ships, prisons, cemeteries, vacation village, museums, brothels) that we might want to wonder what they have in common. If we follow the concept of heterotopia, what they have in common is their difference (hetero) with the dominant space (topos). The problem, in that case, is that a space cannot be declared as heterotopia as such, but rather is an heterotopia from the point of view of another space. For the sailor, the ship is not an heterotopia; it is the milieu that he lives in and for which he participates to construct a norm. When he finally set foot on an island, he is experiencing this other space which establishes rules that he is not fully accustomed to. Every space is delimited and is subjected to rules, rites and norms and can therefore be considered as heterotopia from the point of view of another space.

We don’t live in a black and white neutral space, we don’t live […] in the rectangle of a paper sheet. We live, die and love in a squared space, cutted, variegated, with bright and dark areas, with drops, steps, depressions and bumps, with some hard regions and other crumbly, permeable, porous
Original French version: On ne vit pas dans un espace neutre et blanc ; on ne vit pas, on ne meurt pas, on n’aime pas dans le rectangle d’une feuille de papier. On vit, on meurt, on aime dans un espace quadrillé, découpé, bariolé, avec des zones claires et sombres, des différences de niveaux, des marches d’escalier, des creux, des bosses, des régions dures et d’autres friables, pénétrables, poreuses.
Michel Foucault, Les Hétérotopies, France-Culture, 7 décembre 1966.

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