Atelier 5– Installations

Thinking Otherways: stories of plastic, a grain of salt, and a sacred river

Lucas Jenss and Baldeep Kaur, 2020

The atelier (A5) presented three different spheres and ‘scapes’: a Plastisphere, a Salt-scape and a Water-scape curated by Anne Mikkelsen and Baldeep Kaur. Through sounds, visuals, and material objects, the room lead into otherways of thinking about entanglements between humans and more-than-human beings.

The Plastisphere listening station was a portal into Anja Krieger’s podcast that narrates the various lives of our daily plastics. Anja is a storyteller and podcaster, with a decade of experience as a journalist, reporting for radio, online and print media on the environment and science. She is the creator of the Plastisphere – podcast on plastic, people and the planet and co-producer of Life in the Soil, the podcast on soil ecology. This listening station was an asynchronous component of a listening session and conversation hosted by Baldeep at the Assembly on 12. November 2022. During this session, visitors listened to short excerpts from the Plastisphere, each of which highlights a different dimension of plastics at various stages of their life-cycles. This was accompanied by Anja’s live explanation of the production process and behind-the-scenes research stories.

You can access a recording of the listening session (and the whole podcast) here .

Anja Krieger, 2022

Tucked into the kitchen nook was the installation “Saltscapes” which illustrated the role of salt(s) as an important political agent that generates various scales of history and affect. The installation contained photographic and textual work by Sofia Varino, May Joseph, Baldeep and Anne. The installation was built upon (and the release of) the publication “Who We Are / Not: Salt(s), writing athwart a theory (machine).” This multimedia essay is a conversation that began in 2019 and occurred across a saltwater ocean between two artist-researchers, Varino and Joseph, about the ins-and-outs of one’s relationship with salt(s). It proceeds from an understanding of salt as an important political agent and element that generates various scales of history and personal intimacy via a single grain. Initially planned as an in-person conversation as part of the Minor Constellations in Conversation, the uncertain times prompted the reimagination of the format into an online work that could be perused at one’s own pace. The essay was curated by Sofia Apostolidou, Hinemoana Baker, Baldeep Kaur and Anne Mikkelsen.

You can read the essay here.

Baldeep Kaur, 2022

The installation “A River is More” tuned into the sacred Ọ̀ṣun River, the Ọ̀ṣun-Òṣogbo Sacred Grove and the voice of Ọ̀ṣun high priestess Adédoyin Tàlàbí ‘Fáníyì who emphasises Òrìṣà Ọ̀ṣun’s involvement in political decision-making. This was an invitation into an ongoing conversation between ‘Fáníyì and Anne Mikkelsen, beginning in 2017 when Anne visited the Grove. Materials were from Viktoriapark, Gerüstbau Tisch Berlin and Selfmade, Berlin. The installation was designed in collaboration with the architect Rasmus Maabjerg from Rumgehør, Aarhus. Anne and Baldeep got assistance from Rasmus Maabjerg and Florian Schybilski in the bulding of the project. Doyin ‘Fáníyì is a traditional Priestess, who holds various Chieftaincy titles. She is the adopted daughter of Susanne Wenger and continues to live in her house in Òṣogbo. Adédoyin has an MA from the University of Ibadan in African Studies. The installation will be a part of Anne’s dissertation about the Ọ̀ṣun-Òṣogbo Sacred Grove and its declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. This work, which will include the documentation of the installation, will be made available when finished.

– Anne Maabjerg Mikkelsen and Baldeep Kaur

28 Indices on Salt 

[ a. v. i. s .u .a .l. e. s. s .a. y ]

1. Salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), bound. 

2. That relation is renegotiated constantly. Under certain conditions, if chloride’s five  chains come close to sodium’s, they are joined to become one as salt. But what are  those conditions? What makes salt SALT, as opposed to a mixture of chloride and  sodium? Dispersion and stirring, bonding and binding. 

3. Sodium (Na) is the chemical element of atomic number 11 on the periodic table. It is a  soft silver-white reactive metal of the alkali metal group.  

4. Chloride (Cl–) is a negatively charged ion, meaning: the element chlorine with an extra  electron attached to it. But you can also dissolve hydrogen chloride or sodium chloride  in water to obtain chloride.  

5. Chlorine (Cl) is the chemical element of atomic number 17. A pale yellow-green gas at  room temperature, from the Greek khloros, meaning “green.” Chlorine is a toxic,  irritant gas, often used as a poison gas during WWI. Added to water supplies, it works  as a disinfectant. Chlorine is the active agent in many household bleaches. Chlorine  gas is released in the making of aqua regia, a yellow-orange liquid made of nitric acid  and hydrochloric acid and used to dissolve platinum and gold. Hydrochloric acid is also in the gastric juices of most human and nonhuman animals. But have you ever  seen chlorine? A Museum of Khloros. 

6. Soft silver white. Pale yellow green. Then add an electron and chlorine becomes  chloride. Chloride joins sodium. There you have it, the salt you seek. 

7. Then salt has a whole underworld all its own, a prehistory in one single translucent  flake. 

8. The History of Salt is a History of Taste (see below). It is a History of Conservation. It  is a History of World Economics. A History of Dissolution. 

9. And then the adjacent question is, can salt taste you back? Can it smell and sense you? Can we envisage a neurology of salt or even: a Salt Sensing Tectonics Theory Machine? 

10. But Himalayan salt is pink, halite crystals mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan – by whose hands, for how much? The cost of that pink sold for the weight of its health  benefits and: the taste. The difference in hue is due to the presence of impurities, the  non-salt, that the halite crystal carries: zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium… (no iodine). 

11. Salt crystals gather at my table in an unremarkable saltshaker, transparent and shaped  to be held by human fingers, anticipating the gestures attending shaking, sprinkling,  seasoning. For a couple of years, we used a kilo of Himalayan salt bought at the  overpriced organic supermarket down the road – until the bag was empty. My wife  informs me I use too much salt. I scatter that excessive layer of powdered crystals all  over my food. I like the slow burn opening a halo of sweetness at the back of my  mouth. Sodium and chloride as one.

12. I carry the world’s salt within my bloodsalt and you in yours. I carry my salt in your  blood. 

13. Sea salt has a translucent density, the solid remains of seawater after evaporation, its  mineral residue turning more or less opaque according to the concentration of  anything other than sodium chloride. Salt’s what’s left after water’s gone: a salt stone.

14. Rock salt from salt mines is harvested and cultivated. Salt grows into treasured rock,  stone, crystal – a Trilogy of Salt. 

15. Downstairs there is a saltwater pool & sauna. Go there nightly. Roll your tongue  around your mouth and lick your lips well, once, twice, yes. Taste it again. Keep  breathing, deeper. Is this salt dust floating in the air or is it the drops of your own  sweat evaporating in the steam? You can book yourself a salt rub. 

16. There are one thousand ways to cook bacalhau, the traditional salted cod fish that is  such a staple of Portuguese cuisine. Most of the cod comes from northern Norway, where salted cod is eaten as a savory snack or baked with potatoes and onions in a  tomato sauce and then called a Portuguese style bacalhau stew. 

17. Para quem é, bacalhau basta / “Considering for whom it is, salted cod will do,” is a  Portuguese saying, implying that someone doesn’t deserve too much care or trouble – for them, salted cod is enough. 

18. But in chemistry, a salt is any chemical compound formed by the reaction of an acid  with a base. All (or part) of the hydrogen of the acid is replaced by a metal or other  cation (a positively charged ion attracted to the cathode in electrolysis).

Baldeep Kaur, 2021

19. “Salted,” of a horse, means that it has developed a resistance to disease by overcoming  it.  

20. The Price of Salt is a novel by Patricia Highsmith, later republished with the title Carol  and turned into an award-winning movie directed by Todd Haynes. Reding the novel  in my youth, I learnt that being queer is all about being broke and desperate or about getting into trouble trying to rescue those who are broke or desperate. Lack of money  defines being queer precisely because queers have been operating outside the  reproductive economy of marriage relations. Consistent queer fucking comes at a price – the price of salt. 

21. The taste of salt in my blood is due to sodium. The taste of rust in my blood is due to  iron. Blood is a salty rust, a rusty bloodsalt.

22. Iodine deficiency occurs when someone does not eat enough sea salt, usually in  populations living far from the coast with little to no consumption of fish and seafood. 
In countries with diets low in seafood, iodine has been added to flour, milk and table  salt in order to prevent the effects of iodine deficiency. But iodine is also used as a  disinfectant and in high doses it can be poisonous, even deadly.  

23. Sea vegetables like kelp are iodine rich. The nori in my sushi floods my bloodstream  with iodine and sodium, a burst of sealife. 

24. O Mar dos Outros 
It was always someone else’s sea.  
We had no business being there, licking 
its salt. Plunging its depths, harvesting, hunting for life.  
We ate the cod of it, the crab and weed and eel of it & collected  
the shells. It’s like eating the ocean, you say, after gulping down the pulp of that initial Oyster. The first cunt I ate tasted just like this, I reply laughing & gobble down my own six euros worth of ocean flesh. You drizzle malt vinegar  all over your very first fish & chips, the sting of that first taste tickles your tongue. This  is so good, you mutter as you smack your lips & suck 
on your fingertips for what’s left of the oil & salt. But Lot’s wife turned  to a pillar of salt after she looked back at Solom.

25. After the current monetary system collapses, will there be a Salt Bank? Salt Financial  Insurance? Salt Futures Inc.? How do you measure salt’s purity? How do you measure  the value of its impurity? How do you measure iodine? Iodine Investments Inc.

26. The Hudson river flows both ways: the salt of retribution, sweet water in a tidal  whirlwind, wanting back the ocean.  

27. During Harmattan’s Dreamscapes (2010), we used water from the river and sea salt to  enact our river-becoming – pouring Hudson’s water on soil, returning salt to the drowned river. Salt & Light.

© Joshua Kristal 2010.

28. Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal são lágrimas de Portugal / “Oh salty sea, how much of  your salt are tears of Portugal,” writes Fernando Pessoa in the poetry collection A  Mensagem, a sickening ode to the age of Portuguese discoveries and colonialism. I can  taste this salty ocean all the way from Berlin, the Tagus river cutting across my living  room before it is swollen up by the Atlantic. This history of centuries of departures and  arrivals, with all their attendant violence, horror, death, torture, pollution, exploitation  and extraction, centuries of ecological devastation decimating human and nonhuman  life: it haunts us, here and now, me performing as the ghost of Vasco da Gama’s  daughter and Diana Niepce as a water sprite, the Tagus spirit. Tears run down my face  during the Mar Português (2012) performance by Harmattan Theater at Cais das  Colunas in Lisbon. I lick them off my lips. The impenetrable Tagus, our Tejo da  Cidade, the injured river bubbling dense with heavy metals, running slow and steady towards the open mouth of the Atlantic, ready to be salted, to suture its wound with a  calamity of blue, a surge of speeding water into the high tide.

© Alípio Padilha 2012.

– Sofia Varino


– May Joseph

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