Category: DARKROOM

Heterotopia

ConcepT

HETEROTOPIA

Heterotopia is a concept in human geography elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe places and spaces that function in non-hegemonic conditions. These are spaces of otherness, which are irrelevant, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror.[1]

Heterotopia follows the template established by the notions of utopia and dystopia. The prefix hetero- is from Ancient Greek ἕτερος (héteros, “other, another, different”) and is combined with the Greek morpheme τόπος (“place”) and means “other place”. A utopia is an idea or an image that is not real but represents a perfected version of society, such as Thomas More’s book or Le Corbusier‘s drawings. As Walter Russell Mead has written, “Utopia is a place where everything is good; dystopia is a place where everything is bad; heterotopia is where things are different — that is, a collection whose members have few or no intelligible connections with one another.”

Foucault uses the term “heterotopia” (French: hétérotopie) to describe spaces that have more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye. In general, a heterotopia is a physical representation or approximation of a utopia, or a parallel space (such as a prison) that contains undesirable bodies to make a real utopian space possible.

Foucault uses the idea of a mirror as a metaphor for the duality and contradictions, the reality and the unreality of utopian projects. A mirror is metaphor for utopia because the image that you see in it does not exist, but it is also a heterotopia because the mirror is a real object that shapes the way you relate to your own image.

Foucault articulates several possible types of heterotopia or spaces that exhibit dual meanings:

  • A ‘crisis heterotopia’ is a separate space like a boarding school or a motel room where activities like coming of age or a honeymoon take place out of sight.
  • ‘Heterotopias of deviation’ are institutions where we place individuals whose behavior is outside the norm (hospitals, asylums, prisons, rest homes, cemetery).
  • Heterotopia can be a single real place that juxtaposes several spaces. A garden can be a heterotopia, if it is a real space meant to be a microcosm of different environments, with plants from around the world.
  • ‘Heterotopias of time’ such as museums enclose in one place objects from all times and styles. They exist in time but also exist outside of time because they are built and preserved to be physically insusceptible to time’s ravages.
  • ‘Heterotopias of ritual or purification’ are spaces that are isolated and penetrable yet not freely accessible like a public place. To get in one must have permission and make certain gestures such as in a sauna or a hammam.
  • Heterotopia has a function in relation to all of the remaining spaces. The two functions are: heterotopia of illusion creates a space of illusion that exposes every real space, and the heterotopia of compensation is to create a real space—a space that is other.

Foucault’s elaborations on heterotopias were published in an article entitled Des espaces autres (Of Other Spaces). The philosopher calls for a society with many heterotopias, not only as a space with several places of/for the affirmation of difference, but also as a means of escape from authoritarianism and repression, stating metaphorically that if we take the ship as the utmost heterotopia, a society without ships is inherently a repressive one, in a clear reference to Stalinism.

Up all night on the streets of Paris

UP ALL NIGHT ON THE STREETS OF PARIS

By LENSCULTURE.COM

Through the cracks of an underpass, beams of light refract onto the ground in the distinct shape of a capital “A.”

French photographer Rémy Soubanère pays homage to Alphaville (a classic dystopian film from the 1960s) in more ways than one. He molds narrative and atmosphere out of an abstract vision, echoing director Jean-Luc Godard’s ability to create a futuristic setting out of creative angles and surrealist imagery alone. Terror laces the image, as if the authorities are high above in their helicopters, scouring the streets for dissidents. Soubanère suggests that technology and society have become so oppressive that civilians hide in the crevices of the city, seeking refuge from the constant state of surveillance.

In Godard’s film, the protagonist (Lemmy Caution) navigates his way through Alphaville, ceremoniously documenting the absurdities with his camera for those living in “The Outlands.” He says he’s too tired to argue over what’s wrong and right, so his camera will do the talking—it is his “only weapon against fatality.”

Meanwhile, Soubanère finds himself situated in the Parisian suburbs and saturated with today’s political climate. His own unstaged shots reinforce the knowledge that our bizarre, contemporary reality borders on fiction. “This is where I live, in the hours I live,” he says. “I find things oversized and unreal. This environment opens up my imagination” and brings Alphaville to mind, as well as other “moody movies” from the past. His somber photographs are desolate and weighty. Forlorn playgrounds are veiled in darkness; iron infrastructures dominate the landscape; and the lack of human presence in these vast, man-made terrains leaves the viewer feeling hollow at the grim prospect of automation.

As with any great work, Soubanère’s series finds topical relevance with what’s happening today, even though his work on it began in early 2015, well before the terrorists attacks in Paris or Trump’s election. As with Godard’s Alphaville or George Orwell’s 1984, there is a predictive prescience in these photographs along with descriptive clarity. Orwell’s work, for example, is having a particularly timely moment right now. These days, it seems that wherever you go—whether catching a train or sitting in a cafe—people are cradling a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. Shortly after Trump was elected, the classic book became a bestseller. Although we haven’t started hiding the covers of our novels in paper bags to protect our personal explorations from the spying eyes of surveillance, the novel’s revival in popularity speaks volumes. Soubanère isn’t alone in questioning whether this radical fiction from the 1940s was, in fact, an accurate prediction.

Indeed, there’s an anguished irony to the series: humanity must coexist alongside the hostility of its own, man-made objects. Alongside inspiration from Alphaville,Soubanère is also keen to explore the concept of dispositifs, a phrase translated as “machinery,” “apparatus” and “construction.” Philosopher Michel Foucault coined the term to reference the social systems that govern certain aspects of our lives—from the architectural shape of our cities to the way we live our intimacies. In this series, the absence of people is haunting. Intimidating metallic structures soar across each frame, and the only light is synthetic—even weeds struggle to survive amongst the dominance of iron train tracks and vast stretches of stone. With more signs of life underground than above, it seems that these dispositifs have intimidated civilians to living a life that’s out of sight.

Soubanère’s work touches on something much harder to digest and omnipresent in our everyday lives: our infatuation with technology. “I’m quite fascinated by Bernd and Hilla Becher,” he says. “They sought objectivity in their neutral, industrial photographs. But for me, their work comments on a serious human affliction: obsession.” We may fear technological advancement, but Soubanère suggests that technology doesn’t pose the real threat. “After all, these tools were invented by mankind.”

Orwell’s torturous “2+2=5” chapter comes to mind as Soubanère goes on, saying, “Humans don’t need to know the truth: they just need to believe something. Trump & Co. really understand this, and that’s how we’re here today.” The dystopian aesthetic is not a warning for the future—Soubanère seeks to arouse consciousness and critical thinking within a gloomy present. “The Truth is out of reach, in my eyes. But we can build opinions that are as sharp and accurate as possible. It involves criticizing, not believing. First, though, we must admit that we don’t have Truth.”

Today, you may find “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” or political slogans of a similar nature graffitied on the walls of an underpass. But in a totalitarian dystopia where freedom of speech (even freedom of thought) is met with severe punishment, a subtler, more sophisticated form of rebellion must be exercised. Much like Orwell’s “Brotherhood,” a revolt must be so ambiguous and so intelligent that it only resonates with those looking to revolt. With his camera—a method of expression that maintains the author’s anonymity—Soubanère catches the exact moment the light bends into the shape of an “A” on underground walls. It is only to be seen by those hiding in the crevices. Then again, perhaps Soubanère’s capital “A” doesn’t stand for “Alphaville” at all—perhaps it stands for Anarchy.

—Francesca Cronan

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

The Ghost Carnival

The GHOST

CARNIVAL

ALPHAVILLE CHAPTERS

ALPHAVILLE

Where the sun never comes up

May 2017, France is under state of emergency, fear is not a game any more rather political concern.

In this context, first storms of the season achieve to turn la Foire du Trône into a ghost carnival…

This series is shot in Paris suburbs, far from glamourous parties. Nothing is staged here, but sun never comes up…

Started in 2015, it’s a continuing series.

It came from a strange undercurrent in the air in Paris these days. Sometimes it feels like reality progressed far beyond the future predicted in old dystopian movies. To pay homage to that, the name “Alphaville” is token from Jean-Luc Godard’s Noir-film classic Alphaville (1965).

Prints

Godard’s movie shows an Orwellian world: it is shot in and around the futuristic architecture that dots the city. Nothing from the movie was shot in a studio—everything took place around real buildings. It is a dark and brooding film: the city is portrayed as a machine where everything turns and repeats ceaselessly, everything is computed. The only way the hero found to get away from it, is to go beyond logic and look what makes a human be human, find what cannot be computed : soul, poetry or whatever it can be called.

This what this photo series is about : this is not finding beauty in an ugly reality, it’s trying to stay human in this machine.

© Rémy Soubanère / Studio Hans Lucas

Prints

LensCulture Street Photography Award 2016

LensCulture Street Photography Award winner for THE WATCHDOG.

2nd price — Single shot category 

https://www.lensculture.com/2016-lensculture-street-photography-award-winners

LensCulture Emerging Talent Award 2016

LensCulture Emerging talent Award winner for DAYS OF ANGER photo series

https://www.lensculture.com/2016-lensculture-emerging-talent-award-winners

VIEW GALLERY

Off 126 bus line

The GHOST

CARNIVAL

ALPHAVILLE CHAPTERS

ALPHAVILLE

Where the sun never comes up

May 2017, France is under state of emergency, fear is not a game any more rather political concern.

In this context, first storms of the season achieve to turn la Foire du Trône into a ghost carnival…

This series is shot in Paris suburbs, far from glamourous parties. Nothing is staged here, but sun never comes up…

Started in 2015, it’s a continuing series.

It came from a strange undercurrent in the air in Paris these days. Sometimes it feels like reality progressed far beyond the future predicted in old dystopian movies. To pay homage to that, the name “Alphaville” is token from Jean-Luc Godard’s Noir-film classic Alphaville (1965).

Prints

Godard’s movie shows an Orwellian world: it is shot in and around the futuristic architecture that dots the city. Nothing from the movie was shot in a studio—everything took place around real buildings. It is a dark and brooding film: the city is portrayed as a machine where everything turns and repeats ceaselessly, everything is computed. The only way the hero found to get away from it, is to go beyond logic and look what makes a human be human, find what cannot be computed : soul, poetry or whatever it can be called.

This what this photo series is about : this is not finding beauty in an ugly reality, it’s trying to stay human in this machine.

© Rémy Soubanère / Studio Hans Lucas

Prints

Hyperreality

In semiotics and postmodernismhyperreality is an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies. Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.[1] It allows the co-mingling of physical reality with virtual reality (VR) and human intelligence with artificial intelligence(AI).[1] Individuals may find themselves, for different reasons, more in tune or involved with the hyperreal world and less with the physical real world. Some famous theorists of hyperreality/hyperrealism include Jean BaudrillardAlbert BorgmannDaniel J. BoorstinNeil Postman and Umberto Eco.