Market Research

We just found out that our grant application for the next stage of the ‘Origination’ project was a success. We will be undertaking a residency in Brixton market this summer, working with local communities to explore Brixton’s rich history of migration, and generating new work for an exhibition and series of events at 198 Contemporary Art and Learning.

Yesterday we had our first planning meeting, and the ideas began to fly. We wandered around Brixton market, and came upon answers to many desires – from exotic food to eyebrow threading, popcorn to cobblers, and ‘Jinx Removing’ salts, to rid your home and body of evil spirits.

‘In the Middle Ages markets often provided opportunities for liminal encounter. Not only were they the territory of commercially minded merchants selling the essential requisites of life – but they also provided a fertile ground for the peddlars of mystery; the relic sellers who proffered a glimpse of saintly bones, or the chance of touching a fragment of the true cross…’ (Introduction by Rev Dr Richard Davey, in Newling, 2007)

The idea of ‘relics’ is intriguing, as it touches on ideas we have already worked with around trying to capture ghosts, or create presences of something absent. Hetherington (2003) writes about ‘praesentia’, an encounter with the presence of an absence, as a way to explain the power of relic. He also writes about relics as forms of translation, bringing the far (in time, or space) to the near – but also a way of translating between cultures as migrants settle in new worlds.

Our intention for this new phase of Origination is not to leave behind our own family story, but to move outward from it – by collecting and translating between our own and other’s histories, finding new ways to represent migrant histories, and migrant ghosts, that all too often vanish into the complexity of the city. For ghosts are not just specters of the past, they can also refer to the present: as Maria del Pilar Blanco and Esther Pereen write, “ghost has become an increasingly appropriate metaphor for the way marginal populations haunt the everyday, living on the edge of visibility and inspiring a curious mix of fear and indifference.”

The market stalls full of magic spells, healing plants and herbs and strange relics provide a starting point for contacting these ghosts of the past and present.


Kevin Hetherington (2003) Spatial Textures: place, touch and praesentia. In Environment and Planning vol 35

John Newling (2007) An Essential Disorientation

Maria del Pilar Blanco and Esther Pereen (2010), Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture