{ heterotopian view }


Foucault states that space is the relation among sites, and that sites can be analysed through their relations. There are, however, sites that do not allow themselves to be defined by relation:
“I am interested in certain ones that have the curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect. These spaces, as it were, which are linked with all the others, which however contradict all the other sites, are of two main types.” One type is utopia and the other is heterotopia, which in contrast to the former is comprised of existing places. Foucault’s examples of heterotopia include cemeteries, theatres and cinemas, gardens and prisons. The mirror is an example of something that is both a utopia, an immaterial representation of reality, while it is still a material object showing an existing world, and therefore a kind of heterotopia.
​Associated with Foucault’s heterotopia is, for example, the juxtaposition in a single space of several spaces that are in themselves contradictory. This can be exemplified by the idealised miniature versions of different landscapes found in a garden, or the relation between the guards’ and the inmates’ spaces in a prison, which are often spatially overlapping but defined by power relations. The heterotopia is generally not a publicly accessible space. In order to gain access, the visitor to a heterotopia either has to undergo certain rites, like security at the airport, purification, etc., or access is restricted and compulsory, as in the prison. It is also something that is differing in a way that destabilises the surroundings, unsettling the ordinary. Foucault advocates the co-existence of many heterotopias in society, which would be a way to escape authoritarianism and repression.
​In the article “Keys to heterotopia,” Gunnar Sandin uses the concept as a model, or metaphor, to analyse two landfills. The heterotopia is a way of analysing what a place reflects rather than what it consists of, according to Sandin (in commenting on the vast range of examples). That allows a site (that looks like and is used like any other place) to be discussed theoretically, culturally and symbolically. The concept of the heterotopia as something differing from an un-specified norm has been criticised by many critical theorists, including Edward Said and Anne McLeod. The concept of heterotopia has also been used and developed further by geographers, artists and architects.

Heterotopia and “Helgeandsholmen”

Like the landfills of Sandin’s article (although not to the same extent), the artificial island of my example could also be seen as a constructed and conflicted piece of landscape that points to the unnaturalness of the whole surrounding landscape. But can this state of the unnatural be extended to include ideological frameworks as well? Could seeing the artificial landscape portraying historical events and shifting urban scales also be a way of pointing out history and urbanity as unnatural?
​Many have argued that the large scale exhibitions popular in the 19th century are closely linked to, and even a product of, the imperialist and colonial power structures of their time. In view of these new perspectives on the world exhibitions, it is interesting to review what the Swedish Museum of History chooses to focus on in their archeological dig. What stories are being told of the exhibition and the place it inhabited? What role do the architecture of the exhibition and the landscape have in that narrative?
​Heterotopia allows for the analysis of what a place reflects, Sandin states, and therefor exposing the underlying ideologies and traits. Treating the report of the dig as an aspect of the island, a form of the heterotopia – what kind of ideologies and structures can be un-covered?


Molly Sjögren