Thinking of Being Somewhere Else

Kansai International Airport

by W.S. Merwin, from The Rain in the Trees

None of the computers can say
how long it took to evolve a facility
devoted to absence in life

you walk out of the chute
and a person smiles at your ticket
and points you to your seat

is this the only way home
nobody asks
because nobody knows

the building is not inhabited it is not
home except to roaches
it is not loved it is serviced

it is not a place
but a container with signs
directing a process

there is neither youth in the air
nor earth under foot
there is a machine to announce

yet the corridors beat with anguish longing relief
news trash insurance dispensers
and many are glad to be here

thinking of being somewhere else
hurrying at great expense
across glass after glass

we travel far and fast
and as we pass through we forget
where we have been

Outside of All Places

Go to the Bureau for Open Culture site for a list of participating artists and more information.

Of Other Spaces, curated by James Voorhies, explores how the origins and functions of spaces shape human behavior. It considers the ways in which places become charged with socio-cultural authority to act in service and in suppression of our activity.

Columbus College of Art & Design
Canzani Center Gallery
hours & location

From “Of Other Spaces,” by Michel Foucault (1967):

First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.

There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society—which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.

I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror.

But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.

[Grazie Deborah!]