TIDE Salon: a radical new archive

World-leading South Asian artists come together with Oxford University for interactive collaboration about race, identity and belonging.

TIDE Salon, a radical new archive, has been launched this month as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme. It is a ground-breaking, interactive multimedia collaboration between the ERC-funded TIDE project (Travel, Transculturality, and Identity in England, 1550 - 1700), the award-winning novelist Preti Taneja, six extraordinary sound and spoken word artists, curator and creative producer Sweety Kapoor, and critically-acclaimed filmmaker Ben Crowe (ERA Films). 

Alien, stranger, foreigner, traveller, exile, citizen - these words are ubiquitous in contemporary debates about belonging and identity, yet many were shaped by travel, trade, and colonialism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. TIDE Salon installation showcases the work of South Asian classical musicians and British Asian spoken word poets who responded to these TIDE Keywords, drawing on their own personal histories and stories to ask: What do those words mean to us now? How does knowing their meaning and migration change our social world? Can we communicate across form, distance and time to explore the politics of translation and its lived realities?

The digital installation allows visitors to navigate their own routes into literature, music, and the historical archive. These interconnections are meant to replicate the messy, eclectic process of historical research itself, where different ways into source material can influence the stories we tell, and where archives often invite self-reflection and creative expression.

Taking the intimate ghar (home)-style salon as its inspiration, TIDE Salon evokes the creative atmosphere of early modern European or Mughal salons, with their mix of scholars, poets, and artists. While the collaboration originally entailed a one-off, ticketed event for a public audience, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued transformed the project in unexpected ways. 

The interactive installation that has emerged, created by Ben Crowe (director of ERA Films), showcases the pieces produced by the artists and spoken word poets while simultaneously offering an inside look at the process of collaboration and ‘doing’ history. The digital installation allows visitors to navigate their own routes. No two journeys need be the same. 

Professor Nandini Das of the Faculty of English, who is the ERC-Tide Project Director, said: “The installation is a salon, port, and archive all at once: a place where different layers of source material mix and mingle, allowing visitors to hear new music, embark on a series of visual and textual discoveries, and gain behind-the-scenes access into the ideas and exchanges that produce creative work.” 

The project also involves: