International Journal of Art & Design Education

Making Payton's Rocket: Heterotopia and Lines of Flight

Volume 30.1   2011



This article explores the potential of heterotopia as a way to prompt us to think differently about children's art-making. Foucault uses the term to describe a space of difference. As something that is not easily located within a system of representation, a heterotopia is not amenable to interpretation. It is this resistance to interpretation that can ‘force us to confront the limits of our understanding’. Linking Foucault's idea of the heterogeneous with Deleuze & Guttari's concept of ‘smooth space’ allows me to think differently about representational intent. As a teacher of young children, I have habitually valued and encouraged ‘purposeful’ play. In terms of artwork this has often meant that I have assumed an overriding and usually representational ‘purpose’ that underlies the work and gives it meaning. However, in many of the junk models produced by children during my fieldwork, I glimpsed a quality of the smooth space evoked by Deleuze & Guttari's patchwork quilt where, although ‘they may display equivalents to themes [and] symmetries … there is no centre; its basic motif (“block”) is composed of the single element; the recurrence of this element frees uniquely the rhythmic values’.