Urban Utopia, Dystopia and Heterotopia

From Artdaily.org:

CAMBRIDGE, MA.- Graduate students from MIT’s Department of Architecture display their investigations and the way these terms are represented in visual, audio and literary media. Following the principles of heterotopian spaces the way the French philosopher Michel Foucault defines them in his 1967 lecture ‘Of Other Spaces’, this project seeks to delineate the complexity of fictional narratives, virtual designs and existing realities. X-topia is a spatial collage where the viewer is invited to enter and to wander through islands of excerpts and citations, illuminated by film fragments and surrounded by sound bites. The elements of this exhibition – juxtaposed quotations gathered into a spatial narration offset by montages of film and documentary footage – portray the interrelation of these urban imaginaries from the 20th century. X-topia questions the overarching social constructs that lead to the pursuit of the utopian ideal society by mirroring it through its inherent dystopian aspects and conclusions.

X-topia is an exhibition project of student participants in MIT’s Visual Arts Program course ‘This is Tomorrow? Urban Utopia, Dystopia, Heterotopia,’ taught by Ute Meta Bauer and Yvonne P. Doderer. The course was inspired by ‘This is Tomorrow,’ a ground breaking, trans-disciplinary exhibition by the Independent Group at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1956. X-topia is the result of reviewing and reflecting on selected texts and a wide range of 20th century fiction and documentary films supplemented by a weekly transdisciplinary lecture series with guest speakers from all over the world. Students were assisted by Mary Hale and Morgan Pinney.

Contributions by Gabriel Chan, Lee M. Dykxhoorn, Adam B. Galletly, Mishayla T. Greist, Natsuki Maeda, Robert J. Mastro, Timothy R. Olson, Lisa M. Pauli, Mais M. Sartawi, Gerhard J. Van Der Linde.


Students of ‘Radical Networks, Tactics, Breakdowns,’ taught at the MIT Visual Arts Program by Amber Frid-Jimenez, will present research projects on participatory online and mobile platforms that explores how computational media has altered communication and collective action. Revisiting notions of utopia, dystopia and heterotopia in twentieth century urban theory and art practice, the work explores the utopian assumptions implied by a teleological approach of technological innovation. Students were assisted by Jaekyung Jung and Doug Fritz.


Heterotopia art exhibition

The notion of heterotopia continues to inspire new thinking and art, despite the seeming problems of the piece, which I’ve outlined here before.

Heterotopias” is an exhibition organized by the State Museum of Contemporary Art, for the 1st Biennale of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece.

The title is borrowed from Michel Foucault’s lecture on real spaces-islands where man follows a certain set of rules, which distract him from his daily functions. We interpret Foucault’s text based on new conditions which prove its timelessness. We detect contemporary “heterotopias”, counterpoising real spaces with imaginary ones and we imagine new spaces of the future. As the Biennale’s city, Thessaloniki reevaluates the notions of centre and periphery and brings the periphery to the centre by abolishing the established borders. This way, art is liberated from the restricting walls of a Museum which, regardless, is a “heterotopia” in itself.

The Director of the State Museum of Contemporary Art and one of the three curator of the main programme of the Biennale, Maria Tsantsanoglou -the other two are Catherine David, Jan-Erik Lundström- notes: “Foucault underlines that the museum is a heterotopia. However, in the end, it is the work of art that becomes a heterotopia. It is the creation of a space within the real one, a space that borrows elements from the real space, situations and actions, archives and drawings in order to offer, in the end, a strange reflection of the real space, a “heterotopia”, that exists and is determined by a system of rules referring to ethics and aesthetics codes”.

James Faubion, Foucault editor, in video talk on the postmodern

The Center for Ethnography at UC Irvine has recorded a conversation (scroll down to March 20-21) and talk by Dominic Boyer and James Faubion, who you may recall was an editor of Volume 3 of the Essential Works of Foucault.

Faubion is at Rice University and recently published an interesting-looking paper on the ecology of “heterotopia” (.doc) (“Foucault’s approach to the heterotopic makes a bow to the phenomenologists of space, but only to leave them behind…”).

The subject of the Irvine talk is on the “ethnography of intellectuals and the predicaments of theory today.”

(h/t Savage Minds)


Gary Sauer-Thompson has a post on heterotopia which makes a valuable point:

[Foucault] says that the space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives. our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space. In other words, we do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another.

More here.

Foucauldian analysis of game space

A new PhD thesis is available analyzing “game space.”

Continue reading

Getting beyond heterotopia


A lot of people value the article known in English as “Of Other spaces” which introduced the term heterotopia and have provided various commentaries on it. Perhaps the most naff was by Edward Soja in books such as Thirdspace.

One of the things we tried to do with “Foucault and Geography”(I prefer the subtitle) was get beyond heterotopia a bit. But there’s no denying that it attracts people, largely, I suspect because they can read whatever they like into its vague phrasing. (And wasn’t the “ship of fools” thing found to just be a literary device, not an actual one?)

More, with link to online text.

Updated: Another heterotopia post. Perhaps I’ll just throw them all in here!