Feb. 2023

 Heterotopia meaning

Foucault uses this word to describe spaces that are 'heteros', meaning different, and 'topos', meaning places, so it is about ‘other places’ or 'other spaces' as you might say. They are, as it were, outside spaces, spaces that do not fit into our normal demographics. These other spaces are spaces that are a mirror image of conventional space: as a direct and inverse analogy of it.

These spaceless spaces undermine the familiar because they disorganize our order. They undermine our demography. We cannot get a grip on them. They escape from the invisible power that is linked to our order. From their alienation, from their transgression of those grids, they reveal the foundations from which we give meaning to the world by disrupting our cultural demography. They reveal the naked fact that we create an order in things in the world.

Different Forms

Heterotopias, according to Foucault, occur in every culture throughout history. Moreover, heterotopias have various manifestations, no heterotopia is universal. Heterotopias break through the boundaries of conventional space, contesting the conventional demography by mirroring and inverting its culture. How they do this is characterized by six principles, to which all heterotopias conform to some degree. To get a deeper understanding of these characteristics, they are visualized separately.

 Heterotopia of crisis or deviation

Heterotopias consist of two fundamental forms: heterotopia of crisis or deviation. Crisis spaces are reserved for situations in which the social 'environment' of the culture threatens to become disrupted and which is thus relegated to non-space. These spaces-of-deviation are "abnormal" spaces that don't fit into the "normal" demographics of the culture.

 Heterotopia of disruption of time and space

Heterotopias take form in a disruption of time and space. This can be in the most futile aspect of time, but also as an accumulation of time. Heterotopias have the character of a temporary discontinuity, a certain timelessness.

 Heterotopia of reflection

Heterotopias are a reflection of the culture they’re in. One and the same heterotopia can take different roles in different cultures. Moreover, the function and form of a heterotopia can transform over time.

 Heterotopia of incompatible juxtapositions

Heterotopias are a gathering place in which mutually incompatible and unrelated elements are brought together. These elements can only meet each other in the spaceless space of heterotopia but could never exist together in the conventional demographics.

 Heterotopia of false accessibility

The gateways of heterotopias are connected with a kind of false accessibility. You cannot just get in or out, there is some kind of exclusivity.

 Heterotopia of illusion or compensation

Heterotopias can be an illusion or a compensation of this conventional space(s) of demographics. As they embody an illusory distortion of a conventional space, they give an even more illusory character to the "placement" of that conventional space in demography. For compensation it is the other way around.

 An analogy of a mirror

You can look at all these characteristics separately, but in reality they are so closely intertwined. The different qualities merge into each other, they generate each other.

They are like a "mirror labyrinth", in which one is confronted with wandering, distorted echoes of conventional spaces. Heterotopias refer to 'spaceless spaces' that exceed the boundaries of our conventional spaces and break them; and in this they undermine, challenge, and transform our cultural demography. As 'worlds within worlds' they desacralize our lyricism of space and reveal the codes of our culture.

 Notes

In the analogies / photos with the mirrors, the dissociation of our normal demography is represented, as it is a distorted reflection of our demography. The photographs embody direct and inverse analogies, and because of this, they caught the spectator off guard because of the otherworldly feeling they give.

The analogies / photos with the veil focuses on the connection and intimacy associated with transcending and breaking through those conventional spaces. We used a veil as a symbolisation of those “worlds within worlds” that heterotopias embody. They symbolize the fact that they exist as spaceless spaces outside our normal demographics The woman under the veil is naked, because heterotopias also contain worlds within themselves, which also may be much more intimate and ‘real’ in some sense, as they escape the power and control associated with the normal demographics.

 References

Foucault, M. (1984) ‘ Different spaces’ uit ‘Architecture, mouvement continuite’, 46-49. Translated by Robert Hurley.

Johnson, P. (2006). Unravelling Foucault’s ‘different spaces’ uit History of the human sciences Vol. 19 No.4, 75-90, Sage Publications (london Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi).

Foucault, M. (2021). De woorden en de dingen. Boom uitgevers, Amsterdam.


Photographer: Carym Zidan / @carym_zidan

Model: Loe Teunissen / @migget.111

Fashion design: Melanie van Rijn en Elsemarijn Hijweege (ellome) / @melanievanrijn @eliso.y @ellomethebrand

Art director & producer: Elsemarijn Hijweege (eliso) / @eliso.y