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Where Are They Now?

Michel Foucault

(Vol. V, No. 1/2 -- Summer/Fall 2001)

This, people, is the postmodern condition in a nutshell: While doing some web research to provide some kind of documentary evidence for the allegedly-deceased Michel Foucault’s current occupation, I came upon the following item, in a column in a web magazine called artnet.com:

Does nature depicted through the screen of memory make you melancholy? Imagine, then, checking into the Barthes Motel or Foucault’s Trailer Park for a more "continental" stay. The German artist-cartoonist Oleg Westphalen suggests as much in a group of four drawings at Apex Art, the international exhibition space in Tribeca, operated by artist Steven Rand. My favorite is Lacan’s Grill and Lounge, an uncanny pun on psychiatric method. ("Gallery Yenta," by Rosetta Stone, www.artnet.com/magazine/reviews/stone/stone6-9-99.asp )

Should it come as a surprise to ANYONE to learn that, in fact, trailers are EXACTLY the line of work Foucault has taken up? Of COURSE his life would trump, scoop, preempt all attempts to satirize it! The satirist got it just a bit wrong, however; Foucault is not running a trailer PARK, but a trailer SALES company. Yes, that’s right, Foucault Trailer Sales, located in --where else? --Val Therese, Ontario, a hamlet just outside Sudbury.

Sudbury, Ontario. A city already rich in tourist destinations, including:

1. The Big Nickel—a giant (nine meters tall) facsimile of a nickel, erected on the side of the road, to commemorate the fact that Sudbury is home to…

2. The largest integrated mining complex in the world, which extracts—you guessed it—nickel! And copper. And which built…

3. The world’s tallest smokestack (381 meters). And also…

4. The world’s SECOND tallest smokestack. (I might be making this up, but damn, that second one is tall!)

5. A really great supermarket.

6. Some of the most barren landscape you are ever likely to encounter (courtesy of item 1).

And now we can add to that already-impressive list:

7. The opportunity to meet, chat with, and purchase a popup, RV, or airstream from the man who once said, "Of course, discourses are composed of signs; but what they do is more than use these signs to designate things. It is this "more" that renders them irreducible to the language (langue) and to speech. It is this "more" that we must reveal and describe." (Obvious why he went into trailer sales, no?)

Note: in an even more postmodernist moment, while we could find the website documenting that FAKE Foucault-trailer juxtaposition concocted by some artist type, we could not locate the website for the REAL connection between Foucault and trailers—Foucault Trailer Sales, Val Therese, Ontario. While their billboards proudly proclaim that they are "on the web at http://www.Foucaultcountry.com," no amount of pleading would coax my web browser to unearth such a site.

Real. Fake. What meaning could such words possibly have in a world constituted by discourse?

For more on the Sudbury nickel, see http://www.cyberbeach.net/~seajay/sudbury.html . This excellent website documents the impressive progress that Sudbury has made in reclaiming its environment from years of mining activity. (Let’s put it this way; Apollo astronauts visited the place to prepare for their walk on the moon. No kidding.) Surprisingly, the website says absolutely nothing about the fact that it is also home to a famous philosoher who was thought to be dead!

For a report on the smokestacks, and their part in Sudbury’s turnaround, see http://www.loe.org/archives/960119.htm.

For what it was like to be stranded there, in the middle of the summer with a (broken) car full of little girls, in the "bad old days" of Sudbury, see Lisa’s parents.


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