January 15, 2014
Many of the photos in Vincent J. Stokers‘ series Heterotopia: The Tragic Fall look like they were made on the set of a previously undiscovered Stanley Kubrick film. These abandoned spaces found around the world — an unlikely mixture of control centers, theaters, bath houses, and spots we can’t place — as Stoker explains it are:
“detached from the commonly established relation to time and have entered a temporality of their own. The linear and sovereign time of the watch is replaced with the slow, soft and suspended time of ruins, with the one of the humanist accumulation of the stored knowledge, or with the ever-frozen time of photography.
Heterotopias (Hetero: the other, otherness. Topos: the place) are the other places. It is a concept developed by the philosopher Michel Foucault in the lecture Des espaces autres (1967), published in 1984.
Heterotopias can be defined negatively, by what they are not.
Vincent J. Stoker, Hétérotopie #AAEFI
Stoker's photos are of stout and monumental monsters, relic of the past. They are architectural spaces that have been ignored, deprived of their meanings and functions, places standing outside of daily experiences. He says that the series, The tragic downfall", claims:
that the existence of a place always goes through two moments. From the ascending phase of construction, a time of glorious youth that is the pride of architects, inevitably follows a descending phase where Nature characteristically reasserts its rights. This last moment is what I call the "tragic fall". A change, more or less violent, plunges the existence of the place from one phase to the other. I call this separating moment "dramatic pivot".
The series captures only the descending semi-circle of existence; it is up to the viewers to imagine the other half of this tragic circle by creating their own version of the places’ glorious youth.
Vincent J. Stoker, Hétérotopie #IEIVI
Although heterotopia is a marginal concept in Foucault, it has provoked a vast number of scholarly as well as artistic interpretations and applications. Stoker's interpretation is ruined locations, abandoned empty spaces where nature has become ascendent.