Over the summer, we continue to explore cultural transference, and migration. Rebecca’s work in Loughborough for Radar consists of creating a new starter culture, one made from local yeasts and distributed amongst residents who keenly take on the task of baking bread. The project, Exponential Growth, begins to snowball, and requests come in from people outside Loughborough itself, so that our cultures are now spreading beyond the UK, to Germany, South Africa, USA and elsewhere. An article about Starter Culture features on The Fresh Loaf, a blog about bread making, and brings further encounters from far afield.

Meanwhile, I experience a literal migration, leaving home and moving to London, a process of letting go but also returning – to Bethnal Green, once the home of our grandfather Michael, his parents Moishe and Sarah Schreibmann and their 8 children. In coming back to a place that was once our family home, I become a revenant; a returnee, but also a phantom from another era trying to superimpose myself on a past that has all but vanished. Derrida writes of the duality of ‘revenant’; meaning both coming back, returning and also a ghost or phantom (The Work of Mourning, 2001), and I wonder if a ghost from the future can haunt the past.

I walk to Grimsby street, off Brick Lane, on the day of the 10th anniversary of my grandfathers death. The house he lived in, a Victorian terrace slum opposite the railway arches, is gone, as are the railway arches, conquered by a monumentally concrete overland line that seems to hover ominously over these huddled streets. I leave a bunch of flowers tied to the railings and a card in memory of my grandfather, and am disorientated by a sense of immanence, a momentary feeling of time being very thin, almost immaterial. Coming to live in London, I am constantly disorientated by this feeling of familiarity and yet strangeness, of belonging and not belonging.

“Disorientation is a change of the relationship between time, place and person. Throughout history, people have been consciously engaged in inducing a state of disorientation. … We seem to need times of disorientation, whether self-induced or as a consequence of situations where disorientation is embedded in the event. (…) The disorientation of the liminal process involves place, time and self to be open to new experiences and new knowledge. Disorientation is a condition of the self that can allow new links to be considered; a kind of bridge that slips between seemingly unconnected experiences and events.” (Newling, 2007)

My new flatmate tells me the German word for arrival – ankommen – which means “the time it takes for you to arrive”. Perhaps my disorientation is due to being in this liminal period, having left one home, and not yet feeling fully arrived in the next. I imagine this is akin to the feeling my great-grandparents experienced upon their arrival in London, and yet for me it is at least a known place, a known language, a known culture.

There is a continual pull back and forth between homing and disorientating, between finding a source or place of knowledge then shaking it off to face the unknown again, to begin the search again. The idea of homing in on a truth or an idea, is one of searching for specificity. It is an act of orientation. We associate home with a certainty, a knowledge, a source.

Homing is the opposite of exponential growth, of expansion. In a sense this mirrors the activity of genealogical research, and of family, in both directions: searching further and further in the past towards a place of origination, or going from that point of origin into the future, the gradual expansion and scattering of family from a place that was once home. In our present, we are like a lens, a focal point from which this past and future expands infinitesimally, the point of connection between these myriad lives and dwelling-places.

Katy Beinart


John Newling, An Essential Disorientation, 2007

Derrida, The Work of Mourning, 2001

William Goldman, East End My Cradle, 1940

The Fresh Loaf blog

Exponential Growth