The Space of Gerard Mannix Flynn’s “Performances of Inclusion”: Forsaken Heterotopias
Dr. Gabriella Calchi-Novati
Lecturer in Performance Studies & Critical Theory & Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
When: Thursday, November 27th at 7.30pm
Where: Forsaken exhibition space, Dollard House, Wellington Quay, Dublin – (Next to The Clarence Hotel)
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place. This talk is free but there is limited seating available.
‘A society, as its history unfolds, can make an existing heterotopia function in a very different fashion.’ 1
‘Within [the] simple space in which things are normally arranged and given names, the aphasic will create a multiplicity of tiny, fragmented regions in which nameless resemblances agglutinate things into unconnected islets.’2
What is most disturbing about heterotopias, is that they ‘secretly undermine language.’ Heterotopias, Michel Foucault claims, ‘destroy syntax in advance’, for, not only do they make it ‘impossible to name’ things, but also, and more importantly, they shatter the common names’ relationship with the things they are supposed to refer to. Heterotopias, thus, are performative instances where the ‘less apparent syntax, which causes words and things (next to and also opposite one another) to ‘hold together’’ is troubled. The work of Irish artist, politician and, as he likes to be called, “actionist” Gerard Mannix Flynn, and more specifically, his latest project Forsaken (2014), employs the very syntax of heterotopias, performing, thus, a resistance against the aphasia of Irish history. It is by embracing the visual grammar of simple performative elements, such as a bucket, lace curtains, the Vatican flag, that Forsaken shows, instead of self-portraits of Flynn himself or of Irish women and children from the past, the aphasic fissures that have been silently surfacing in contemporary Irish biopolitics. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us that ‘testimony contains at its core an essential lacuna’ and that [..] the sound that arises from [such a] lacuna [is] the non-language that one speaks when one is alone, the non-language to which language answers’.3 I wish then to reflect on the ‘non-language’ that is spoken as soon as we enter the space of Forsaken. A bare white space, in an anonymous building at the edge of Temple Bar, becomes indeed an heterotopia for the passersby, in which they can reflect upon the church and the state’s abuses against the forsaken women and children of Ireland: those nameless dwellers of what I call Flynn’s “heterotopias”. And if it is true that ‘utopias permit fables and discourse’ since ‘they run with the very grain of language and are part of the fundamental dimension of the fabula’. And that ‘heterotopias desiccate speech, stop words in their tracks, contest the very possibility of grammar at its source’4; I would conclude by advancing that Flynn’s Forsaken presents us with ‘a nameless resemblance’, which problematises not only history and memory, representation and documentation, but actually testimony as such, or rather Agamben’s ‘non-language’. Therefore, Flynn’s “performances of inclusion” give rise to political heterotopias, whereby new relations between words and things are established, relations that allow Foucault’s ‘unconnected islets’ to be bridged by a timely grammar of resistance, namely, an idiom that is visual and spatial rather than just merely aural.
1 Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics 16, no. 1 (Spring 1986), 22-27: 25 [emphasis added]. 2 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things. An archaeology of the human sciences (London; New York: Routledge, 2002 ): xx [emphasis added]. 3 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz. The Witness and the Archive, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazon (New York: Zone Books, 2002; 1999): 13; 38. [emphasis added] 4 Foucault, , The Order of Things: xix.
About Dr Calchi-Novati:
Dr. Calchi-Novati received a B.A. magna cum laude in Letters & Philosophy, an M.A. (honors) in Public Relations from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan) and an M.Phil. (first) in Irish Drama & Film from Trinity College Dublin. Her work has appeared in Performance Research, Performance Paradigm, About Performance, and Cinema: Journal of Philosophy & the Moving Image; and in edited collections. She holds a Ph.D. awarded with distinction for her thesis Performativities of Intimacy in the Age of Biopolitics. She lectures in Performance Studies and Critical Theory, and she is working on her second PhD in Political Philosophy under the supervision of Professor Alenka Zupančič in the Institute of Philosophy at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, in Ljubljana.
For a list of publications: