Speaking without illusions, acutely aware of the extraordinary power of the market-driven economy of art, yet maintaining the cue from Foucault and continuing to pursue this heterotopic quest, could we suggest that it is possible to propose contemporary art, and its spaces, the peculiar spatial palimpsest of the black box/white cube (yet carrying the history of artistic invention and intervention within it as its context of action) as well as the annexing of other sites for art, as a discursive regime and system involved in the production of heterotopic momentum, as an agent or midwife of heterotopias?
Three texts by Michel Foucault have served as the working platform and source material in the process towards this exhibition, Heterotopias (Society Must Be Defended), presenting thirty artists and artist-teams, with works impossible to survey or summarize here. In addition to “Of Other Spaces”, the cardinal text of the 1st Thessaloniki Biennale, and the most well-known source of Foucault’s explication of the notion of heterotopias, I have turned to Society Must Be Defended, a series of lectures exploring the institution of war and the construction of race as elements of contemporary society and to Life: Experience and Science, a short essay on the concept of life itself.
The heterotopian challenge, as initiated by Foucault, further clarified and elaborated by the notion of interstice, most interestingly lexically defined as a/ a space that intervenes between things (my italics) or b/ a gap or break in something generally continuous. This concept or notion is as well close to what psychologists call liminal space, specified as a place where boundaries dissolve, and where thus spaces of different orders may meet, topias with heterotopias.
Thus Heterotopias ( Society Must Be Defended), with art works situated in the crisis of the present, comprises or may be seen as proposing three thematic trajectories: a/ the care of the social, especially in light of the continued state of exception and the so called War on Terrorism, b/ the presence of heterotopias, especially when understood as liminal or interstitial spaces/states of being, and, finally, c/ the notion of life itself. The works of art and projects presented in the exhibition are not necessarily immediate commentaries on or responses to these themes (and the viewer may find, for example, all three thematics present in one single work). First and firemost, the work of art is always its own totality, beyond the power of both the artist and the curator. But more specifically, each art work lives in the context of the suggested thematics, marking or creating its own space there within. The thematic grid proposed enables a variety of projects to coexist in this exhibition and biennial, just like the heterotopia itself enables the coexistence of different orders of space, different forms of social relations and belonging. Just as the children on a schoolyard in Johannesburg, encountered in the video Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Children So Different, So Appealing?, vigorously defending society.
Teloglion Foundation of Art / Thessaloniki French Institute / Museum of Byzantine Culture