By Jessica Karuhanga
SaltWalks: Two Movements
IMAGES by Henry Chan
A few memories of salt. There is an image taken by my sister of my uncle’s hand holding salt from a mine in Uganda. All the moments tears have streamed down my face and into my mouth. As a child when its winter I wipe the side of my Nana’s car with my vinyl mittens then lick them before my mum notices. I am gargling salt-water when I am ill. I throw salt on my wounds. I soak my sore parts in salt water to diffuse the aching. Let’s try to dig for a story of salt that doesn’t leave us parched with misconstrued notions of health. On an afternoon guided walk I found myself unearthing an alternative way of looking and seeing this mineral. Salt finds itself when it reaches our bodies. It is how we learn how to breathe. It is intrinsic to our muscle movement. It is used in making pulp for paper. To bind. To season. To bathe. To purify. Salt is mnemonic of the primordial oceans forming portals into history.
Randy Lee Cutler sees walking as a form that is always about site and how we move through space, time, and temporality. Every iteration of the performance is a new experience. No art experience or encounter is the same as the one before.The poetics, movement, and stride take care and time. When she leads a walk everyone becomes a performer, enactor, and mover. Based on my experience there is generosity in this exchange that feels integral to Cutler’s practice and methodology as a maker, marker and teacher. Together our movement feels everyday and primal and by extension these enactments draw audiences beyond those invested in art, theory and its frames and institutions. When you perform in public space it may look strange or curious to pedestrians who are not informed by art or theory. But, alternatively theory can cloud or hinder an art encounter.
Cutler is wearing an off-white suit and a matching canvas satchel filled with glass vials full of salt. She asks that we remain silent and begin to process our memories of salt. She begins walking and we follow in silence until we reach our first mark. I have never really intentionally thought about salt in this way. Her request was so specific, so direct and yet loose compelling us to thoughtfully re-frame our memories. Perhaps the salt was in the background on the table at dinner or maybe it was in the tub. As I and others delve back into our memory wells a partition falls. We slow down. We take care. Something is unraveling that is for us and beyond art. When Cutler senses someone is tiring or needs a pause she slows. She is a conduit. She leads. She orates, shares, listens. If anyone wants to sample salt at anytime they may ask. I hold charcoal and Himalayan rock salt crystals in my palm. I lick them. I reflect. I absorb their stories in a mirroring movement.