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London’s Global Bitters Cabinet

17 Nov, 2010

London's Global Bitters CabinetThis week an exhibition of alcohol-based tinctures, lotions and bitters goes on display at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Curator Dr Ricardo Leizaola, an anthropologist specialising in Visual Anthropology and Ethnobotany, showcases a multimedia installation of the exotic alcohol-based healing traditions that were found in multicultural London. The exhibition, London’s Global Bitters Cabinet, explores London’s diasporic traditions of the uses of plant-based alcoholic remedies.

Originally conceived as a compendium of remedies, the collection evolved to include contemporary and new age alternative alcohol-based herbal remedies as well as alcoholic drinks formerly marketed as medicines or with reputed medicinal properties.

Embracing a broader set of ‘medicines’, the collection ranges from well-known artefacts of the Empire, such as Angostura bitter for pink gin, to post-colonial concoctions, including Bedroom Bully and Detox tinctures.

Dr Leizaola illustrates some of the intersections between and among nominally different ways of thinking about and using alcohol-based herbal remedies through a visual exploration juxtaposing these products, their claims and ingredients. Using various digital media this installation explores aesthetic and social aspects of the collision of diverse cultural and social practices and domains, which have in common the use of alcohol and herbals for healing or recreation.

Also on display are a selection of posters, texts and videos that analyse and contextualise consists of a collection of spirits, tinctures, lotions and remedies accompanied by a selection of posters, texts and videos analysing and contextualizing the collection.

London Global Bitters Cabinet: Bitters, Tinctures and lotions used and sold on the streets of London is a free exhibition at Goldsmiths, University of London. It runs from 19 November to 17 December 2010.

The collection was funded by an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust.

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