Heterotopia

ks3 ks4 ks5Digging into some literature on an altogether different topic, I stumbled upon this paragraph:

“I believe that between utopias and […] heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.” (Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces. Heterotopias)

It made me wonder: Could photographs be related to mirrors? And could a photograph possibly be some kind of heterotopia? After all, photos seem to trigger a strange exchange between my position – here, in front of the picture – and the place they show which is, in most cases, not here, but inevitably there. I am here, looking at a ‘there’ which is very real as a picture and very absent as an object: “There is no there there,” I am tempted to say.

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