Curated by Ariella Wolens
Asta Medal Lynge, Lobbies, 2013
Erchen Chang, Rules to be a Lonely Man, 2012
Ilja Karilampi, The Chief Architect of Gangsta Rap, 2009
Sasha Litvintseva, New Empire, 2012
Heterotopias is a theory developed by Michel Foucault (1926-1984) which posited spaces of otherness. It refers not to actual locations, but rather to spaces outside of normative life. Citing examples such as ships, mirrors and graveyards, Foucault’s theory sought to reveal the divisions and differentiation between spaces in modern capitalist realms, their lack of commonality and the inability to superimpose the nature of one space onto another.
The concept of heterotopias remains a rather free notion that has been applied somewhat unreservedly to a number of exhibitions and artists. This exhibition seeks to scrutinize the notion of heterotopias in relation to the art image and to consider how a notion of space is subverted when it is abstracted through processes of artistic display. That which is represented and signified is removed from the natural system and thus ceases to be functional; and ultimately, subverts its quality of being heterotopic.
These artists present installations that relate to both real and non-places. The concept of non-places are highly complex in themselves. Anthropologist Marc Augé described these environments as being “wholly independent of [one’s] immediate physical surroundings” 1 , whereby the boundaries are ephemeral rather than spatial. By displaying these juxtaposed impressions of place, we aim to gain a heightened awareness of their structures and how these distinct spaces affect our bodies and sociability. Each artist is examining a place they have left, be it that of their childhood, as demonstrated in the work of Russian emigree Sasha Litvintseva, or the nostalgic non-place of outmoded fragments of mass entertainment, as in the work of Hannah Perry.
As we enter the exhibit we are greeted by a siteless place, one that can be anywhere in our globalized, modern world: the lobby. Asta Meldal Lynge’s film Lobbies points to the manner we adopt within this space: the decorum of waiting, silence and watching. The strange subversion of sound and vision within these glass cathedrals is manipulated in Lynge’s video work. Here we observe the chaos of metropolis through alternations of muteness and cacophonous traffic.
Passing through the office, we move into the site of rap music. Here the cultural site is mixed by the artist’s hybrid of his Swedish tongue and American subject. Ilja Karilampi’s Dr Dre: The Chief Architect of Gangsta Rap is an example of another siteless experience which is facilitated by technology. The artist creates a para-fiction through his account of Dr. Dre’s career, interweaving it with his own narrative to create a world within this frame, blurring the truth and his own perception. Increasingly, we identify with vicarious, technologically transmitted experiences and find them manifesting within our own realities. In constructing a parallel between the styles of producer Dr. Dre and modernist architect Le Corbusier, Karilampi presents a personal, revisionist take on a public history. In so doing, he perpetuates what has become an ever- shifting boundary between truth and reality.
Similarly, in the work of Hannah Perry, the artist explores how we absorb what we see on screens into our own history. Characters are ambiguously presented as potential friends or strangers, and images have a dreamlike sense of having really occurred.
In contrast to the works described above, Sasha Litvintseva, Erchen Chang and Adham Faramawy present cultural sites entrenched in their national place. Their art dispels the notion of the global experience. Litvintseva’s chilling documentary New Empire reminds us that the world remains disconnected, that countries have separate histories, which in the case of Russia continue to be largely unknown beyond the site. We are offered a rare view into a strange world that is distinctly Russian; we cannot superimpose this experience onto other sites, this is a story of war and suffrage where the site is inherent. Similarly, the crisis of the Asian male explored in the work of Erchen Chang observes a history of repression that can only be understood in its specific context. The loneliness of Chang’s subject is directly related to the supreme values of his culture.
Faramawy’s work traverses the Middle East in which Euro-American consumerism is translated and aggrandized. Here, the hyper spectacle of shopping is brought to us via the abstracted, flattened mediums of stickers and desktops. While removed from its own cultural history, the modern Middle Eastern shopping culture provides a new node in its network. Here, the juxtaposition is not transnational, but existing in the same sphere. Layers of culture such as religious piety and capitalist greed co-exist.