I spent the previous three weeks ‘in residence’ on a market stall in Brixton, offering passers-by “Memory Preservation Salts” which came from a salt pan in the Western Cape region of South Africa, the exact location where my great-grandfather had once harvested salt to sell in his general store nearby. Whilst the importance of history, and a fascination with place and memory were handed down to me by my family, what was omitted were the Jewish religious and cultural traditions which my great-grandfather carried on his emigration from a small village in Lithuania around the turn of the 19th century. Seeking to reconstruct my own past, I became fascinated by how little we really know of our history. Could place act as a filter for memory?
Sitting in the market, I had a series of often intimate, surprising and sometimes shocking conversations with strangers about their memories and stories of origin; where their family came from, where they came from, and their connection or otherwise to these places. Their journey to Brixton. As they spoke, my imagination took on their memories and I found myself in the places they described, inventing my own memory-pictures. I wonder: can it be possible for me to adapt these images into a collective biography?
Salt is a starting point for many of the conversations. Lauren, a Brixtonian, tells me about a woman she met in Bahia, Brazil, who collects salt from around the world. She says that salt embodies the soul of a place; and in alchemy, salt is soul, or soul is salty. So each sample of salt is like a sample of a place, somewhere in the world. This seems appropriate for the exchange taking place on the stall: the giving of salt in return for a sample, a fragment, or a relic of somewhere.