On Wednesday 15th June, Origination opened at 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning, the next chapter of our project. The work on show translates and re-presents the material gathered during our month-long residency in Brixton Market.

Installing the show transformed the gallery into a carpentry workshop, an electronics lab, a nursery (of plants) and a salt repository. Gradually from these various productive (if messy) areas, clarity emerged, with the work still ‘in progress’ but contained within distinct stations. As the exhibition took shape, we responded to the idiosyncrasies of the space, whilst the work once installed changed the gallery, giving it the feel of an experimental laboratory.

A week later, on 23rd June, invited speakers John Newling and Paul Basu came along to talk to an audience of project participants and others. Reflecting on the themes of the exhibition and the market residency, John spoke about the possibilities of markets as spaces of mystery, and fluidity, which he had explored in his Preston Market Mystery Project:

“Markets for me are places of transaction that belie the shininess of the mall and the high street, giving instead a visceral sense of the community chatting and moving through a space that is at one and the same time both ancient and contemporary. It is a fluid space, where the permanence of the architectural edifice seems to be disorientated by the transitory events it houses. It is a space of risk and mystery. In a society which has profoundly moved towards an audit of our activities, the marketplace seems a fine context in which to sell insurance against loss of mystery.”

The place of mystery, like that of the detective novel, is familiar to artists as we set out to observe and understand the world around us, to solve its riddles and puzzles. The detective work of family history, creating a series of meanings around absences, around journeys to places where nothing may be left except ruins, is a means of constructing identity, and of creating origin myths.

Our work has given salt an importance as part of our origin myth, and both John and Paul talked about the properties of salt, John mentioning its power to both protect and corrode, which seems so potent in the context of memory. Paul suggested that salt acts as a relic – it contains the substance of the place, the salt pan becoming a site of pilgrimage.

In this sense, the artwork/ installation Confabulation1 is a collection of relics, each representing (fictionally or actually) the substance of a place, or a journey. In a Handbook of Material Culture, Chris Tilley talks about how our personhood is created through objects/use of objects, and how things provide a way to understand ourselves and each other. This collection of objects is a potential starting point for a creation of shared meaning, between these 54 different histories.

Paul suggested that with the archive as place of absence, the creation of an archive or a journey towards one’s roots becomes an act of fantasy. But these profound emotional journeys, akin to pilgrimage, can fill the unknown. As Paul said, looking at our family tree, it has multiple points of origin and departure – a “complex of journeying”. This defies the idea of singular roots – and suggests rather the tangled roots of belonging (like a deleuzian rhizome), the implications of which might be to question what legitimacy roots give us..but also offer up opportunities for a more collaborative approach to the mythology of origin.

With thanks to John Newling and Paul Basu.

The exhibition runs from 16th June – 5th August at 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning, 198 Railton Road, London. www.198.org.uk

1the confusion of imagination with memory, or the confused application of true memories