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


Though I have missed you so very much

I am standing outside Hull Paragon Station, holding a sign in my hands. Slowly people gravitate towards me. A gentleman in a straw hat walks up to me, and not looking at my face, says haltingly ‘Though… I have missed you… so very much’.

This is how it begins, a walking tour of Hull, animated by fragments of lives played out in these streets at the turn of the 20th century. A group of sixteen has gathered for the tour, and luckily a woman in a floral dress hears the phone box next to us ringing quietly, a summons from Katy to come and meet her on platform 4, the original “emigrants platform”.

For two hours we explore Hull, asking each of the walkers to carry an envelope, which is addressed to a particular location. At these locations, they open the envelopes and discover one of Edith’s postcards, a photograph or artefact relating to that site. Katy and I weave together the stories of our family and these places, in the context of the 2.2 million emigrants who passed through Hull from the 1850s – 1910s.

As the walk meanders through the city centre and down to the docks, we become increasingly involved in the tales of Edith’s and her best friend Dolly’s lives, and separation through migration. We encounter ships, waiting rooms, concert halls, a music box, a lost locket, lost gardens, a drowned synagogue and a forgotten brother.

There’s a profound sadness that emerges from tracing vanished lives in a contemporary landscape. But there is also a humour as secrets are revealed and interpretations of the missing facts are offered. Most of the people who join us for the tour are of our parents generation, or older, and the readings we include about memory and forgetting seem to resonate strongly for them. We end the tour at the docks, looking out at the murky Humber and the wide open sky. I pour everyone a shot of vodka, and as we raise our glasses to ‘all those who have passed’ Katy reads us a quote from Sebald:

‘Memory, he added in a postscript, often strikes me as a kind of dumbness. It makes one’s head heavy and a giddy, as if one were not looking back down the receding perspectives of time but rather down on the earth from a great height, from one of those towers whose tops are lost to view in the clouds.’ The Emigrants, W G Sebald.

Though I have missed you so very much was part of Humber Mouth: the Hull Literature festival



“Memory, like the mind and time, is unimaginable without physical dimensions; to imagine it as a physical place is to make it into a landscape in which its contents are located, and what has location can be approached. That is to say, if memory is imagined as a real space…then the act of remembering is imagined as a real act…”[1]

We have installed our exhibition at Artlink in Hull, a gallery on Princes’ Avenue, in an area of town that still has remnants of Edwardian finery. Walking up the avenues with their spacious houses and ornate fountains in the middle of the road allows us to imagine the Hull where Great-grandmother Edith spent her youth, a wealthy town with a busy harbour, through which many migrants passed en route to America and South Africa. In other parts of town it is harder to see Hull’s past: it was one of the most severely bomb-damaged cities in the second world war, has lost a lot of its traditional industry, and has suffered a lot of redevelopment, including innumerable concrete shopping centres and car parks.

Travelling up to the north-east over the past few months, peering behind the concrete, we find clues about our ancestors. There’s a fantastic history centre where we look at maps of Hull from the 19th century, and see the plans of a long-disappeared Botanic Gardens. We find the 1901 census that record the Pearlman’s lives in Hull. We visit the neglected Jewish cemetery where Great-great-great-grandfather Filaratoff is buried. And using Edith’s post-card collection, we find what remains of the places that have entered out imaginations through the faded photos and looped handwriting of messages written over 100 years ago.

At Artlink we show some of the work we created in Cape Town, reconfigured for this environment. We have also produced new work, drawing on Edith’s life and local histories. Adaptation is a travelling plant case, based on the Wardian case used by Victorian plant collectors to transport rare finds to a new environment. The case contains four South African plants, whose names combine to make a ‘living letter’. Floriography, the Victorian ‘language of flowers’ designated particular meaning to specific flowers, to create coded messages of love and longing.

Ghost writing is an installation that develops an idea that we explored in South Africa: the physical act of writing by hand and the traces left by the letters and postcards of a generation of migrants. Farewell Concert refers to Edith’s skill as a concert pianist, and the concert she gave before leaving Hull for South Africa. We often select certain pieces of music to act as markers for moments in our life, or as requiems for a particular time or a person who is no longer with us.

Much of the work in this show can be transformed back into luggage, ready for a continued journey. We project the film Offere in a suitcase, a small mobile cinema that can be folded down and carried away in a few minutes. More than a century ago our family unpacked their bags in Hull and made it their home. Then after just one generation they packed up again and left. We return, looking for a place to touch, a place to locate memory.

Rebecca Beinart

[1] Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust- A History of Walking


Salting the Earth

So our time in Cape Town draws to an end, and we start to pack up our belongings, take down our studio, say our goodbyes. It doesn’t feel like we are leaving never to return, although we both know that coming back would be different. I see this text in the Malmesbury Museum:

“May your gates be open always.

Day and night.

May they never be closed.”

I realise that endings are never full stops. Instead we leave doors open everywhere we go, possibilities of return, possibilities of friendships and relationships left behind to be re-established, ideas still to be explored; but the context, the time, will never be quite the same.

Unlike our ancestors, we are going back. We can return to our lives in Europe, but we have changed, subtly. I think about the redpill/bluepill choice in The Matrix. Having taken the risk, explored the possibility of other lives, is it impossible to go back to familiar, comfortable, known modes of identity and existence?

On our last day in Cape Town, we drive out along Chapmans Peak Drive. It is a stunningly clear day, endless blue skies and ocean stretching out into the distance. We stop at the highest point and ceremonially throw the salt from our installation out over the cliffs and the ocean. It feels like a goodbye, but also like investing ourselves into the earth. A little bit of us belonging here, remaining here. Salting the earth.

Part of leaving is having to get rid of the material possessions we have accumulated, and at the airport we discover that we have to lose some of our baggage or pay the excess. So we offer up our possessions to the airport, to whoever might find them. We leave “Romeo and Juliet” at La Senza, take “Great Expectations” to the World Cup souvenir shop, donate Isaac Bashevis Singer to the Esoteric section of the bookshop and leave the rice paper on a café table. Our final activity as they call for boarding is to eat the remaining black bread from the Malmesbury event with salt from the pans, and leave Woolf’s name on the table.

Travelling from England to South Africa took us 26 days, and travelling back takes us less than 26 hours. Rebecca tells me that there is a Native American Indian belief that your soul only travels at walking pace, so if you travel faster then it takes a while for your soul to catch up with you. We travel about 6000 miles in a day and I arrive feeling like a part of me is definitely still somewhere in Africa.

England feels grey, white, cold, disorientatingly familiar. Home doesn’t feel like home. Is this what it is like to be a migrant, to not belong anymore, in the new home or the old? Gradually I settle back in, I listen to the radio, read the paper, walk in the muddy green fields. But I am carrying ghosts within me, not just ancestral ghosts, but the ghosts of place – I dream of the mountain, of dusty red earth, and razor sharp light striking through the curtains in the morning. I understand now our rituals as we left. They were funeral rites, acts in anticipation of mourning.

Katy Beinart


The last supper

It’s our final weekend in South Africa and we are hosting an event at Malmesbury Museum: the old Jewish Synagogue where our family used to worship. We spend Saturday evening preparing borscht and black bread for the performance. Dad is in Cape Town for a few days and we keep him busy chopping vegetables and making almond biscuits.

A group made up of family, members of the Museum’s management committee, and artists from Greatmore studios join us for the event. We set up a dinner table at the far end of the museum, where a board displays information about the Beinart family and the rest of Malmesbury’s once-flourishing Jewish community. There is something very special about being able to perform an event in this space: it is a site that is so strongly connected to the stories we have been hunting, a space at once familiar and strange to us.

Katy and I read texts taken from our letters to each other. The words feel particularly resonant in this place, and frame the conversations that follow as we share borscht and black bread with our guests. The simple act of eating together and asking each person to propose a toast to one of their ancestors forms a ritual in which significant fragments are shared. It is a moving and meaningful way to close our time here.