Salt-Water-Bodies: From an Atlas of Loss is a response, through photomedia(tions) and live art, to material-affective encounters with/in littoral death zones along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean of the South African West Coast and seven adjacent islands – sites haunted by violent legacies and unchecked exploitation, where heightened precarity marks the lives of earth others. Shadow places, where the histories of indiscriminate, increasingly systematic killing and destruction – the ‘harvesting’ of whales, seals, seabirds and guano – are intertwined with narratives of settler-colonialism, empire, state control, racial segregation, land dispossession, coercive labour practices, militarisation, and industrialisation. Presently, these sites fall within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or otherwise restricted-access zones. This inquiry has been shaped, in many and in important ways, by walking the shore – a liminal space of movement and instability, alternately claimed by land and sea; an often-troubled site of shifting boundaries and transition, uncertainty and possibility, fear and transgression, conflict, myth, death and desire. Islands, even more so, are ambivalent spaces of refuge, exile and quarantine; shipwreck and marooning; indentured labour and military occupation; allegory and escapist fantasy. Salt-Water-Bodies is an in/complete, im/possible atlas – neither comprehensive encyclopaedia, nor reliable map. This inherently unfinished work, a postmortem mourning and wit(h)nessing, is characterised by the friction of at the same time following after and along, losing and finding, straying and circling back; of slow praxis in times of urgency and acceleration, and of grappling with the yearning towards more wake-full and just multispecies futures, but not-knowing how to tell stories that are just big enough.
Dr Adrienne van Eeden-Wharton