These Boats were made for Walking, or Heterotopias par Excellence


[The following is a slightly revised version of an artist’s statement that I wrote for a group exhibition that I was in at Anchor Art Space in Anacortes, Washington, USA in June of 2014. Foucault’s term heterotopia really piqued my interest (as it has many other thinkers), yet he wrote very little about it. I’m planning on using the idea of the heterotopia in my autumn independent study paper for IDSVA. More about that later, however.]

"Leibniz' Dog: The Beast of All Possible Worlds" Sculpture in Porcelain and Wood, about 22" long and 30" tall
“Leibniz’ Dog: The Beast of All Possible Worlds”
Sculpture in Porcelain and Wood, about 22″ long and 30″ tall

I recently came across Michel Foucault’s term heterotopia, which simply means “other space or place,” those that are special, set aside from normal life. Examples that he gives are the honeymoon suite, and the colonies of the Puritans in America: places intended to engender a transformation or new beginning. His discussion is literally grounded: it seems he is always speaking of things built upon the earth: rooms in buildings, colonies in a new land. Thus I am surprised when he concludes with a mention not of land, but of the sea: “The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.” What particularly piqued my interest is the intersection of land and vessel in Foucault, something that occurs in my own work. I invoke both by combining “what belongs to the land” with the vessel form. Foucault has hit upon something profound and poetic: “The boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea.” A cocoon afloat on the abyss; a boat upon the sea, or our earth floating in space, is a mysterious and powerful image.

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