Is the Kursaal a special place? Does it connect us to other places?

Full details for this weeks CCT event

Kursaal as Heterotopic Space

20th June 2014

8.30pm for a 9pm start

Upstairs at the Railway Hotel, Southend-on-Sea,


“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.” (Michel Foucault, 1967)

The Kursaal was one of the world’s first amusement parks and the bank holiday destination for working Londoners between 1920s-1960s. During the 1970s it became a decaying music venue playing host to major rock acts. All that remains today is the Grade 2 listed main building with a distinctive stained glass dome.

In this CCT event we approach the Kursaal as a ‘heterotopic’ space (Foucault, 1967) which holds up a mirror up to life in Southend; past and the present.

Angie Voela: Academic (UEL)

On the other side of the mirror: heterotopia in Foucault and contemporary culture

Even the most dedicated Foucauldian would have to admit that his notion of heterotopia is at best schematic, unfinished and elliptical. Yet few ideas have captured the imagination of artists, activists, writers and scholars more than this one. What is it that makes heterotopia such a powerful notion? Why does it endure and what does it promise? I attempt to formulate a response to these questions by discussing instances of heterotopia in various fields of creative work and academic research, also discussing the limitations of existing critiques and, in many cases, their profound lack of engagement with Foucault’s larger ethic-aesthetic project.

Jane Millar: Artist and Curator

Kursaal: dream of the other 

This talk will engage with various critical theories, including Foucault’s heterotopia, to consider the fairground as a space of otherness, with more layers of meaning or relationships to other places than immediately meet the eye; as part of human geography. It will then introduce a project which aims to commission contemporary artists/makers to respond to the history and presence of the Kursaal. The talk will explore the site of the Kursaal and show the work of the artists involved in the show.


The discussion will be chaired by Tony D Sampson (UEL)


Guest DJ: “Twig the Wonder Kid” (11 till 1am)


Speakers Biogs

Angie Voela is a senior lecturer in Psychosocial Studies, University of East London. She has published extensively on identity and gender in literature, film and theatre. She often draws on psychoanalysis, Foucault and French philosophy, and has a keen interest in space, theories of space and the spatial dimension of identity.

Jane Millar is an artist, a lecturer in fine art and a curator. She studied painting at Canterbury College of Art, and completed an MA in Painting (Tapestry) at the Royal College of Art, in 1989. In 2012 she completed an MA in Education in Museums and galleries at the Institute of Education, London. Her interest and recent projects in curation are concerned with site specificity, place and audience development; where artists-as-researchers engage with/reveal both tangible and intangible content. Jane’s current role, as an associate research curator for A Fine Line, is to develop an exhibition of contemporary artists/makers to interpret the history and presence of The Kursaal Amusement Park, in Southend-On-Sea.

Links to text versions of the Making Sense of Place talks from CCT April 17th 2014

For those who attended our inaugural Club Critical Theory night on 17 April,  thanks again for making it such an engaging experience. Below are links to the text-based versions of both talks, on Deleuze and Bourdieu. We’re looking forward to seeing you again at our next event on the Kursaal as a Heterotopic Space on Friday, 20 June; all welcome.

Making Sense of Place: Creating a Critical Space for Southend

Talks in text format

Tony D Sampson‘s talk on Deleuze in Southend

Andrew Branch‘s talk on Habit, Space and Value: Utilizing Bourdieusian theory


Kursaal as Heterotopia: Plans for the second Club Critical Theory event are already afoot…

Kursaal as Heterotopia

UPDATE UPDATE – We are probably moving this second event into June. More to follow…

Just as we approach our first CCT event on the 17th April, plans for the second event are already afoot. We have pencilled in 25th May as a date to talk to the artist and curator Jane Millar about her proposal to curate new artworks that respond to the history and presence of the Kursaal Amusement Park.

Another aim of this project is to exhibit under-represented British cultural movements in contemporary festival installation work, robotics, automata and sideshows. Sounds fascinating.

At this moment we are talking with various theorists about using Foucault’s heterotopia as a way to critically intervene into Jane’s work on the Kursaal. Something along the lines of the amusement park as part of a juxtaposition of alternative spaces along the Essex coastline.


Some advanced reading Of  Other Spaces : Utopias and Heterotopias – MIC H E L FOUCAULT

More soon

UPDATE UPDATE – We are probably moving this second event into June. More to follow…