Issue Eleven: Heterotopias (Worlds Within Worlds)

Mozhdeh Bashiran, Tamara Lee, and Yani Kong


Issue 11 is being released within the context of a resurgent wave of Covid here in so-called Canada and around the world. As we are asked to continually adjust our expectations for life and movement while performing a bodily calculus of risk and reward, covered by masks, our bodies themselves start to feel like heterotopias, isolated parts of a larger network. 

However, the work being created by new artists and scholars creates pathways between our small worlds, and glimpses into the otherwise. These works explore our dissipating lives, our histories, stories, and communal memories in this crisis-ridden current moment, and catch a glimpse of the ephemeral, yet tangible signs of eroded memories that still haunt the spaces we so absentmindedly occupy.

Michel Foucault writes in Les Hétérotopies that the present epoch might be understood as “the epoch of space,” or rather, the epoch of simultaneity (Dehaene & de Cauter 2008, p. 14). “We are in the epoch of simultaneity; we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and the far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at the moment, I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a great life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein” (ibid.). This is how Foucault begins to define the concept he terms “hétérotopies” or what we will call “worlds within worlds.” 

Unlike utopias, heterotopias are not superior to our real life; instead, they are hidden or closed within the spaces we occupy in our everyday lives. When we enter an overcrowded hospital nowadays, we enter a heterotopia of crisis—one that changes the intensity of each lived moment. When we lose our homes, suddenly the streets open to us new maps and new ways to survive. When we lose our loved ones, their clothes, the smell of their perfume, the scent of their favorite tea, or just a photo we took together suddenly opens another space within the time and space we occupy. Heterotopias are other spaces. They are real, yet they are often virtual rather than actual.

Within this issue are beautiful examples of work exploring these hidden spaces—works which allow us to hear, smell, move, or look into the mirrors of creations which reflect for once, not what we expect to see, but the unexpected and enchanting spirit of these forgotten spaces and times still pulsing within these fleeting moments. These still spaces.

Immerse yourself in the hidden world of resistance through art described in Kitt Peacock and Amir Saarony’s essays. Ashley Snook’s installation VHD VHD explores how human and nonhuman species live within and without natural systems amongst landscapes and spacescapes. Xinyue Liu explores the archetype of the character Kasper from Peter Hanke’s eponymous play as he blooms in the work of W.G Sebald and is carried forward in recent feminist experimental cinema. Kasparian characters speak in ciphers, transforming or concealing messages between non-discrete worlds. Anneliese Hardman’s exhibition critique of Rania Matar’s recent digital exhibit Other Side of the Window: Portraits During Covid-19 through the Rollins Museum of Art, investigates the fracturing of personal and collective identities during the public health crisis. Pooya Kazemi’s photographic series, Recreate the City (2019-2020) uncovers the city as a crossing of diverse, interactive forces; as she writes in her statement, “the [contrariety] of hegemonies and non-hegemonies.” Nathan Clark’s case study of imagineNATIVE’s collective project, 2167, brings together the notions of accessibility and the body, read through Debord’s foundational work in Society of the Spectacle, to ask how simulation can produce new ontological approaches.

Heterotopias are other spaces. They are real, yet they are often virtual rather than actual. We consider the ongoingness of these concealed becomings, and their value in our ongoing experience.