April 28, 2011

Space, Knowledge, and Power
Michelle Foucault
Within this conversational piece Michelle Foucault explores spacial relations within society, and further to this, relationships of power and the exercise of freedom and liberty. He deals with ideas of the city and the state, and the manner in which the city became a model for the way that the whole state is governed rather than being the exception to open space, “The model of the city became the matrix for the regulations that apply to the whole state”.
The concept of power is explored, but not in a general manner, it is explored in the sense of spaces, populations, their relationships, governing bodies, and the manner in which this concept of power is exercised over a society.
Specifically Foucault examines spacial and architectural projects as a means by which power is exerted and liberty and freedom are exercised.
“Liberty is a practice. So there may in fact, always be a certain number of projects whose aim is to modify some constraints, to loosen, or even break them, but none of these projects can, simply by its nature, assure that people will have liberty automatically, that it will be established by the project itself. the liberty of men is never assured by the institutions and laws intended to guarantee them. this is why almost all of these laws and institutions are capable of being turned around- not because they are ambiguous, but simply because ‘liberty’ is what must be exercised”.
In saying this, Foucault is quite simply stating the manner in which freedom and liberty operate; the very nature of them- they are not concrete values which can be either given or taken away, they are possessed in a dormant state by all people within society, and can be exercised at any moment which calls for them.
Within both the exercising of freedom and liberty, or the exercising of power over a population, the intention of an architectural, or spacial project is not the fundamental defining character, but rather the manner in which the project operates within a society. The intention of the project can provide the means by which liberty can be exercised, but cannot guarantee liberty itself; and in just the same way, a project can create the exclusion of a population, but as long as there is the idea of freedom then the population has the ability to rebel and exercise freedom and liberty.
Perhaps most importantly within this essay, Michelle Foucault outlines that communal life and power are intrinsically linked through space. He writes, “Space is fundamental in any form of communal life; space is fundamental in any exercise of power”. Communal life relates to the interaction of individuals with a society, and the manner of interaction is through space, and therefore, in order to exist within a society, an individual who is a part of, and wishes to interact with a larger population is always going to have to comprehend, contend and possibly struggle with these concepts of freedom, liberty, and power.
the space of power

cells and silos

Luke Flanagan

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