Katy Beinart

 

Salted Earth

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Detour and Retour: Practices and poetics of salt as narratives of relation and regeneration in Brixton

Practice-based PhD, The Bartlett, University College London

Supervisors: Jane Rendell and Ben Campkin


Abstract

Drawing on the work of Martiniquan poet Edouard Glissant and his ‘poetics of relation’ (1990), this practice-based PhD explores how salt features in relationships of migration and change in urban sites, in particular the context of Brixton, a once suburban area of London with a strong migrant identity.

Following Glissant’s notion of detour and retour, this thesis moves between geographical locations through a series of four narrative journeys from Brixton, outwards to South Africa, Eastern Europe, Portugal, and Haiti, returning each time to Brixton as a ‘home’ site. Each chapter is arranged as a detour and retour, developing a practice and poetics of salt that offers a productive reading of Brixton’s current regeneration.

I explore salt’s use in offering forms of protection, preservation and reawakening through re-enacting rituals found in everyday and religious practices from across different diasporas. I engage with auto-ethnographic research into my family history and Jewish cultural customs around salt, as well as engage with others’ stories and salt products that link to specific places through migration. Using practices that perfomatively engage with salt, I build on work by artists including Robert Smithson that investigate the materiality of salt and others such as Sigalit Landau who use salt in the preservation of objects.

Overall, this thesis argues that practices and poetics of salt can be linked to processes of migration and regeneration. The thesis shows how salt practices can be used to understand the particular poetics of salt and how salt acts as an index in artworks that point to ideas of migration and diaspora. These material and poetic qualities of salt make it a rich vehicle for alternative readings of regeneration, particularly in sites such as Brixton. I argue for a re-negotiation of the language of regeneration of these sites, providing new potential meanings of 're-generation' through a re-reading of Glissant's terms of detour and retour as well as his poetics of relation.

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Link to Bartlett profile

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Katy is part of the Mapping Spectral Traces network, a trans-disciplinary, international group of scholars, practitioners, community leaders and artists who work with and in traumatized communities, contested lands and diverse environments.