response by Esther Pilkington


Where Research Takes Place

Research format Heterotopian Zone, response by Esther Pilkington

Heterotopian Zones take place.

Taking place as happening, as occuring.

Taking place as taking into account historical, social or physical characteristics of a place.

Taking place as taking over a place.

A Heterotopian Zone is research on site. Heterotopian Zones can take place and manifest physically at very different locations.

At theatres.

In parks.

Throughout the city.

At ports.

Just to give some examples.

A Heterotopian Zone is a site-specific practice and research format – not necessarily in the sense that Heterotopian Zones cannot be removed from their respective sites (though they would change when changing sites). Being site-specific here means considering the site of research and taking the place of the Heterotopian Zone into account. The site is an essential aspect of the research – of the process as well as of the presentation. The location, the siting, of the Heterotopian Zone can take many different forms, on a conceptual as well as on a material level. However, they all articulate and negotiate a relationship between the Heterotopian Zone and its site.

How is the site integrated into the heterotopia?

Is it ignored, turned upside down, foregrounded, amplified?

How are the inside and the outside of the Heterotopian Zone marked?

Is the site made visible, is it hidden?

Do site and Zone overlap?

How are entrances and exits of the Heterotopian Zone organised?

Can one enter easily, or is there a threshold to overcome?

Foucault describes heterotopias as “other spaces”. In Heterotopian Zones, “other ‘other’ spaces“ (Pilkington/geheimagentur 2019) emerge and are enacted.

Through newly invented built infrastructures.

Through the implementation of different rules and rituals.

Through the provision of alternative services.

Through assemblies and gatherings.

Through the sharing of space, of food, of drinks.

Through the realisation of a fictional ‘as if’.

As a format of PABR, Heterotopian Zones point to the fact that it does not only matter who participates in the research process, but also where this research takes place, where and how it is located. Of course, the ‘where’ also defines the ‘who’ – often the site of a Heterotopian Zone is chosen because of the people who live or work there, pass through or engage with it.

Working with different generations.

With citizens and non-citizens.

With passers-by.

With only a few.

With as many as possible.

While the Heterotopian Zone might manifest physically at one specific site (though some Heterotopian Zones can also travel), the research is more dispersed – temporally as well as spatially.

The Heterotopian Zone is at the same time a concrete outcome of the research process and an integral part of it. It is the result of prior research into a topic and into its site. The Heterotopian Zone can also be the source of further research. The Heterotopian Zone is developed with a specific location in mind, but can also be opened up to research about places in general, for example about theatres, parks, cities and ports.

The Heterotopian Zone makes the research public and accessible, on site, perhaps for the first time in the research process. However, different outcomes might be disseminated through various media and forms. In a way, the site where the Heterotopian Zone took place travels, because of the research, to other places.


Through text.






Other “other ‘other’ spaces” start to emerge.



geheimagentur/Pilkington, Esther (2019): “Other other spaces”, in: Digel, Marion/ Goldschmidtböing, Sebastian/Peters, Sibylle (2019): Searching for Heterotopia. Hamburg: adocs. pp. 76–85.

Foucault, Michel (1986): “Of Other Spaces”, in: Diacritics, Vol. 16, No.1, pp. 22-27.