Symposium: Intersemiotic Translation

Words, Brush-strokes and Dancing Shoes

– a symposium on translatability across invisible borders

organised by Ricarda Vidal and Madeleine Campbell

King’s College London, 1st July 2016, 11am – 5pm, Strand Building, Room S3.05

translatabilityCommunication happens on many levels, the gestural, the olfactory, the visual, the linguistic etc. As Walter Benjamin wrote, “communication in words [is] only a particular case of human language” (1916). While word-based languages are confined to linguistic borders, which often coincide with national or even regional borders, non-word-based forms of communication can transcend such borders, while, of course still being influenced by cultural traditions. Intersemiotic translation (e.g. the translation of a poem into dance, or a short story into an olfactory experience, or a film into a painting) opens up a myriad of possibilities to carry form and sense from one culture into another beyond the limitations of words. At the same time, such processes impact on the source artefact enriching it with new layers of understanding.

This symposium brings together a group of academics, translators, curators and artists, who have explored intersemiotic translation in their practice. It is an opportunity to present individual projects and research, exchange experiences and explore new partnerships and collaborations. Part of the symposium will be dedicated to the Special Interest Group “Intersemiotic Translation and Cultural Literacy”, which has been set up by Madeleine Campbell with initial support from the Cultural Literacy in Europe Forum. We will discuss what the group could do for intersemiotic translation, e.g. provide a framework for joint funding applications, international networks, or future collaborations between individuals/institutions, etc.

click here for Madeleine’s Special Interest Statement

We would like to thank the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s College London for sponsoring the event.



10.30 Coffees & Teas

11.00 – 11.20 Welcome, Ricarda Vidal & Madeleine Campbell
11.20 – 11.30 Naomi Segal, Cultural Literacy in Europe – an ESF project
11.30 – 11.40 Q & A

Chair: Carolin Huth
11:40 – 12.00 Cara Berger, Stroboscopic Dramaturgy: Time, Translation and Creativity
12.00 – 12.20 Catherine Boyle, Always the Page. Always the Stage
12.20 – 12.40 Heather Connelly, Translation Zone(s)  A stuttering
12.40 – 13.00 Q & A

13.00 – 13.50 Lunch

Chair: Madeleine Campbell
13.50 – 14.00 Maria-José Blanco, Playing with Translation
14.00 – 14.10 John London, Words, Sense and Presence
14.10 – 14.30 Bryan Eccleshall, After Berman: Reiteration In Terms of Translation
14.30 – 14.50 Christiane Lange, Word. Sound. Image. Intersemiotic Translation in Practice
14.50 – 15.10 Peter Tomaz Dobrila, Intersemiotic Translation as ‘Programmatic Art’
15.10 – 15.20 discussion

15.20 – 15.40 Coffees & Teas

Chair: Ricarda Vidal
15.40 – 16.00 Manuela Perteghella, Translation and the case of the poem in motion
16.00 – 16.30 Eugenia Loffredo, Translating words and images: a mini-workshop
16:30 – 17:00 concluding discussion


Abstracts and Bios

Cara Berger

Stroboscopic Dramaturgy: Time, Translation and Creativity
This paper will discuss and reflect on my practice-as-research performance fire into song (The Arches, Glasgow, 2013) which took off from Hélène Cixous’s novel The Book of Promethea. Specifically, I will theorise the challenges and potentials presented by translating time from poetic language to live performance. Deleuze has termed Cixous’s writing ‘stroboscopic’; that is he identifies that she combines interconnecting themes and signifiers to form ‘variable figures‘, ‘according to […] accelerated speeds’ (in: ‘Hélène Cixous or Stroboscopic Writing’). In using the term stroboscopic Deleuze invokes an undecidable temporal state since the stroboscope makes fast movement appear slow or static. By creating a structured, yet largely improvised performance that combined a digital ‘poetry machine’, dance and a live soundscape, I sought to determine a dramaturgical form analogous to Cixous’s prose; a stroboscopic dramaturgy.
I suggest that the resulting performance might be conceived as challenging the phallocentric notion of the author-genius that has historically dominated Western discourses on creativity in two ways: through its status as an intersemiotic translation, and through its use of improvisation. In making this argument, I hope to open up a discussion on the practice of intersemiotic translation and its relationship to creativity: what does it mean to ‘follow’ (Derrida) an artwork? What is the creative potential of repetition? What does an intersemiotic translation bring into appearance?

Cara Berger teaches Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow. She has a background as a theatre-maker and has completed a practice-as-research PhD (2014) that draws on écriture féminine to frame postdramatic theatre aesthetics in relation to feminist politics. Her research focuses on postdramatic theatre, feminism and critical theory in the first place. She is also increasingly interested in how these fields might resonate with pressing questions of ecology, matter and ways of living in a more-than-human world. She has recently published articles on these subjects in Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Performance Research and Platform.

Maria-José Blanco

‘Playing with Translation Games’
My presentation will look at my involvement with Translation Games and explore how we have been playing around with the idea of translation as a game with different players and audiences.

Maria-José Blanco teaches 20th-century Spanish literature, language and translation at King’s College London. She has collaborated on various intersemiotic Translation Games projects with Ricarda Vidal, including ‘Still in Translation’ and Translation Games in schools in 2015 and the current project ‘Child’s Play’. Her research interests lie in contemporary Spanish writers, with a special focus on women writers and life-writing. She has published Life-writing in Carmen Martín Gaite’s Cuadernos de todo and her Novels of the 1990s (2013), has coedited a special issue of the Journal of Romance Studies : ‘Airing the private: women’s diaries in the Luso-Hispanic World’H(2009) and has also coedited The Power of Death: Contemporary Reflections on Death in Western Society (2014) and Feminine singular: women growing up through life-writing in the luso-hispanic world (2016).

Catherine Boyle

Always the Page. Always the Stage
In the translation I will talk about –nthat involves transmission broadly from dramatic text to new dramatic text –hthe experience starts on the page and ends in the body of the actor. Well, nearly, because that statement is not strictly true, since translation for the stage is multiple and belongs to a process of progressive rehearsal and renewal. Tracing the ‘beginning’eof the dramatic script is difficult, because it does not begin with the author; neither does the new script ‘end’ewith the linguistic work of the translator –iwe always start incompletely with the page and we always end incompletely with the stage. In this paper we’ll think about just one step –tthe move from the translated text to the body of the actor. The process is designed to condition the text for its work on stage in the articulation of the actor. This type of translation is about the work the word and the text have to do to create the world on stage through their physicalisation. I will present a methodology I have been developing in my translation for theatre practice that privileges the rehearsal space as a site of translation in order to deliver the move from dramatic text to dramatic text through a series of competing sites of meaning and interpretation.

Catherine Boyle is Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at King’s College London. She has published widely on Latin American culture, theatre and performance, with particular reference to Chile. She was a co-founder of the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. She is co-director of the theatre translation and performance project, Out of the Wings ( Her translation of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Los empeños de una casa as House of Desire was premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2004 as part of its Spanish Golden Age Season, and has been performed on a number of occasions since. She is a director of Head for Heights Theatre Company, and a translator of Latin American theatre and poetry, and her most recent work is on the meeting places of translation and cultural history. From July 2016, she will lead the research project ‘Language Acts and Worldmaking’, funded by the AHRC Open World Research Initiative.

Madeleine Campbell

Madeleine will be talking about her Jetties collaboration and introducing the Special Interest Group ‘Intersemiotic Translation as Process in Cultural Production’  (see separate full SIG statement).

Intersemiotic Translation as Process in Cultural Production
The installation Haجar and the Anجel, based on the poetry of Algerian author Mohammed Dib (1920-2003), was developed by the Jetties group. Initially exhibited in a gallery environment (The Hunterian, Glasgow), the installation then migrated to a series of site-specific workshops, inviting participants to explore intercultural stories and experiences relevant to their own experience through the medium of gesture, sound and movement. The lived environment enabled by such ‘eventing’ facilitates an ephemeral spatio-temporal experience that stands closer, perhaps, to the author’s source text, than a purely intrasemiotic translation. The intersemiotic translator (artist, performer), instead of focusing on the translation of sense or meaning, effectively plays the role of mediator in an experiential process that allows the recipient (viewer, listener, reader or participant) to re-create the sense (or semios) of the source artefact for him or herself.
The aim of the CLE special interest group on intersemiotic translation is to identify, foster and analyse creative practices in translation and their potential impact on society. Informed by philosophy, linguistics, poetics and cognitive sciences, we are also interested in whether and how the methodologies of practice as research (PaR), primarily developed in the performing arts, can be applied to the process of intersemiotic translation as cultural production.

Madeleine Campbell is a writer, researcher and translator. Born in Canada, she lived in France for over a decade before settling in Scotland. Her collaborative practice project Jetties was designed to stage Algerian author Mohammed Dib’s writings through site-specific workshops in which participants  ‘translate’ his poetics through sound, gesture, movement and sculpture. Her translations of Maghrebi poets have been published in the University of California Book of North African Literature, Scottish Poetry in Translation and MPT Magazine. Her writing has appeared in CLCWeb, Arabic Literature, Lighthouse, Poetas que traducen poesìa, Jacket2, The Burns Windows Project  and Stanza’s Poetry Map of Scotland. She co-edited the Quaich anthology and is a member of the Cultural Literacy in Europe forum where she leads a special interest group on Intersemiotic Translation.

Heather Connelly

Translation Zone(s)  – A stuttering
Using Roman Jakobson’s tripartite definition of translation (interlingual, intralingual and intersemiotic) as a starting point, this presentation will discuss the multiple levels of inter-semiotic translation encountered during the development and production of Translation Zone: A Stuttering, a polylingual audio work. The vocal ‘score’ was developed during an AHRC cultural engagement fellowship. Following a series of interviews focused on the basic alphabetic ‘sounds’ of each language, during a number of workshops, as the participant/performers provided the ‘material’ for the work, it was performed in and around the Library of Birmingham (April 2016), responding to the particularities of the architectural forms and spaces.
My presentation will include video documentation of the work followed by a discussion of the inter-semiotic processes involved when working across disciplines and linguistic boundaries. A Stuttering marks a transition from working predominantly with linguistic translation and pre-recorded audio during my PhD, avoiding the issue of inter-semiotic translation, to tackling it on a daily basis, devising a live performance, communicating and articulating my ideas to others. The aim of the work and other events within the series is to immerse the audience/performers in translation or the ‘sounds’ of multiple languages, to investigate translation as a somatic and embodied phenomenon.

Heather is an artist/researcher based in Nottingham and a post-doctoral researcher at Birmingham City University (BCU). She gained her practice-based PhD in Fine Art Speaking through the Voice of Another from Loughborough University (2015), which used translation as a method for making experimental art works that explored ‘interlingual’ translation. She has recently completed a recent AHRC Cultural Engagement fellowship at BCU during which she establishedTranslation Zone(s), an ongoing series of events that examine art-and-translation as a transdisciplinary practice. She is co-founder and co-curator of InDialogue, a biannual international symposium (2012,14 & 16) which examines alternative ways artists utilise dialogue within their work. 2009-11 she co-founded New Research Trajectories, a cross institutional interdisciplinary network for PHD students supported by the AHRC to share their research in process and progress. She has been a lecturer at various institutions since 1993 and is currently devising a new Masters Course at BCU.

Peter Tomaž Dobrila

Inter-semiotic translation as  ‘programmatic art’
Inter-semiotic translation seems to me more or less normal artistic practice: translating an idea into an art-form of any kind.  When an artist continues to work on someone else’s artwork applying other (their) media, this might as well be called ‘programmatic art’. An idea could be anything in our minds or beyond – it may appear as a text, image, sound, smell, poem, move, choreography, scenography, film, photo, dream, either something conscious or subconscious. Media-wise by giving text, sound would appear, making a cover by onomatopoeia or metaphorically turning into another level or taking other form of expression becoming a video or installation all presented in the physical public space or in the virtual environment by making it on-line presentation, web event, newsletter etc. Or images could appear as words and sounds or in artistic domain paintings become literature and music and film and performance or theatre.
Probably the most accurate inter-semiotic translation happens within one person and it might be put parallel to the synesthesia: direct and un-deviated. When it’s planted into the societal environment, it could be called intermedia transcription, since it’s happening among certain groups, or intercultural exchange, while it’s raising understanding between various entities of any kind, cultural, social, political, economic, national etc. that consist in society, which is inter-semiotically  translated daily, but many times ‘lost in translation’.

Peter Tomaž Dobrila is an electronic and IT engineer and a musician who focuses on the creative use of new technologies. He has presented, exhibited and lectured all over the world and is a member of the European Academy for Digital Media (EADiM).
In 1996 he co-founded the Multimedia Centre KIBLA (MMC KIBLA) in Maribor and was its head and president. In 2008 he established and was president of the Scientific and Research Association for Arts, Cultural and Education Programmes and Technology EPEKA, which was the first in Slovenia to be awarded social enterprise status. In 2009 and 2010 he was General Director of the Directorate for Arts in the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia. In 2011 co-curated the Contemporary Art from Slovenia exhibition in the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany and was Commissioner for the presentation of Slovenia at the 13th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Italy in 2012. He was initiator and co-author of the winning candidature of Maribor and partner cities for the European Capital of Culture 2012, co-initiator of the Ljubljana 2010 – World Book Capital (UNESCO) and co-initiator of the Maribor 2013 – European Youth Capital. He is co-founder of the Association for Contemporary Art X-OP and, since 2014, president of CODE BLUE Production. In 2015 he was employed at the Ministry of Culture of the Republic in Slovenia in the Minister’s Office. In 2016 he received the Autonomous artist status as producer and intermedia artist and is busy working on several projects.

Bryan Eccleshall

After Berman: Reiteration In Terms of Translation
Visual reiteration might not, strictly speaking, be considered as translation, but can usefully be thought of in terms of translation, specifically those codified by translator and  theorist Antoine Berman in his essay ‘Translation and trials of the foreign’. To paraphrase Berman, any complex literary translation is deformed even as it is being made. The conscientious translator, who intends to honour the source text, will want to mitigate against that deformation, though is unlikely to be entirely successful.
I propose that Berman’s terms – described by him as the ‘twelve deforming tendencies of translation’ – can be adapted and used as a rigorous framework within which any kind of reiteration can be tested and discussed and, as such, provide a useful glossary for any expanded consideration of translation. Berman’s list is revealed as a powerful tool for managing the ‘voice’ of the maker in relation to both what is made and its precursor.
Using these terms as guide, any discussion of ‘translation’ becomes focussed on the decisions of the maker rather than on a post-hoc ‘reading’ of a finished piece in the manner of a critic or historian. The framework should, therefore, be of special interest to those who teach those who make.

Bryan has recently completed a Ph.D. in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University, where he also completed his Masters. His work is concerned with exploring the consequences of considering drawing in terms of translation and in using this to understand the idea of ‘practice-led research’.
Before returning to art practice in 2003 (he graduated in Fine Art in 1988), Bryan had a career in book manufacture and publishing. He is currently a tutor in drawing and painting at the Open College of the Arts.
Bryan’s work has been exhibited around the UK and abroad. In 2015 he took part in the Translation Game ‘Still In Translation’. His interest in publishing continues and much of his work is available in self-published form (365drawings and After After… accompanied his Ph.D. thesis and are available through A collaboration with German artist Karl Heinz Jeron was published in Tegel: Speculations and Propositions (Berlin: The Green Box, 2013). His drawing After Joseph Beuys’ Wirtschaftswerte (Economic Values) was awarded one of the two students prizes at the 2015 Jerwood Drawing Prize.

Carolin Huth

Carolin will be chairing the first session.

Carolin Huth is currently completing an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries at King’s College London. After obtaining her BA in Political Science and Law she worked as a policy consultant for urban development in Berlin and produced a performance project within Berlin’s liberal arts scene before she moved to London. She is interested in urban development and governance concepts in cultural policy. With a background as a professional ballet dancer she furthermore is keen on producing art projects especially in performance art, and seeks to produce or develop programmes preferably with a focus on disability and diversity. Currently she works as research assistant on the Translation Games project ‘Child’s Play’.

Christiane Lange

Word. Sound. Image.
Intersemiotic translation in practice
The Literaturwerkstatt Berlin / Haus für Poesie is a centre of competence in publicizing poetry  developments in the German-speaking countries and around the world. With over a hundred events, festivals and exhibitions spread over the whole year with poets and artists from around the world, the Literaturwerkstatt Berlin / Haus für Poesie operates at the points of contact between poetry and other arts and cross-media contexts. Its focal points are the presentation and promotion of poetry, promotion of younger writers, poetry and film, poetry and new media, digital poetry, translation workshops on current poetry and international exchange between authors. The Literaturwerkstatt Berlin  / Haus für Poesie is networked to institutions in over 60 countries. Listen to the poet:, the poetry archive, presents more than 1000 poets in 70 languages.
ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival
Every two years the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival shows the current state of a dynamic, young short film genre which lies somewhere between poetry, film and new media. The festival offers both makers of poetry films and poets themselves from around the world a forum for fixing positions as well as exchanging ideas and experience.
Christiane will briefly speak about the work of Literaturwerkstatt Berlin and present a special kind of intersemiotic translation: Poetry translated into film.

Since 2001 Dr Lange has acted as deputy director of the Literaturwerkstatt Berlin. She is responsible for the monthly programme and is acting manager of the main projects like the poetry festival Berlin, ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, open mike – an international contest for German-language literature, and
Her publications include “Art Cannot Shape the Times”, 1st International Wilhelm Müller Conference, Berlin, 1994, by Ute Bredemeyer and Christiane Lange; “Europaexpress”, by Thomas Wohlfahrt and Christiane Lange, Eichborn, Berlin, 2001; “Erfolgreiche Künstlerinnen. Arbeiten zwischen Eigensinn und Kulturbetrieb” [Successful Female Artists, Working between Obstinacy and the Business of Culture], by Susanne Binas, Claudia Feest, Hildtrud Ebert and Christiane Lange, Klartext Verlag, 2003.

Eugenia Loffredo

Translating words and images: a mini-workshop
Reading a poem is not a purely verbal process and interacting with it, in a creative way, allows the translation journey to be enriched. This is possible not only by interrogating the current reading/translation experience, which is plurilingual as well as visual (not to mention other senses), but also by re-visiting past readings and other sensorial experiences.
An imagistic poem such as ‘Tramonto’ (1916) by Giuseppe Ungaretti, a three-line composition, appears to be the ideal candidate for a workshop that intends to explore intersemiotic translation, engaging participants in the practice of translation as a creative undertaking. ‘Il tramonto’ has a well-balanced structure – one seven-syllable line, one five-syllable line and one seven-syllable line – expressing one image in which three existential moments are articulated.
The workshop will start by introducing the poem ‘Tramonto’ and will be followed by an example of multimodal translation attempted by myself. Then, participants are given on a handout the poem with a gloss into English and two translations into English. A variety of different responses will be encouraged by suggesting that the translation can take any shape: a verbal translation and/or a non-verbal translation (images, drawings, storyboards, art objects etc.), also resorting to the participants’ expertise/knowledge in their specialty/discipline/art.
The workshop will conclude with a plenary session in which the participants will briefly present their translation or ‘project’ of translation, therefore yielding more discussion and reflections.

My main research interest is in experimental translation exploring the relationship between creative writing, translation and multimedia. I have been working as an associate tutor at the University of East Anglia, Norwich since 2000, teaching literature, translation and Italian.
My two main co-edited publications with Manuela Perteghella include Translation and Creativity (2006) and One Poem in Search of a Translation (2008). I also blog on translation and writing with Manuela Perteghella at ‘The Creative Literary Studio.
My current project is to co-curate a touring exhibition of inter-art translation with the title TransARTation: Wandering Texts, Travelling Objects, (forthcoming 2017).

John London

What do you do with words to be performed when their sense denies presence? This seven-minute intervention suggests some theories and proposes an answer.

John London is Professor of Hispanic Studies at Queen Mary, University of London and the Director of the Centre for Catalan Studies.

Manuela Perteghella

Translation and the case of the poem in motion
Literary translation is here understood to be a highly creative and artistic practice, through which texts are read and (re)imagined. This process of creatively engaging with the imaginative content and context of the source text(s), and to converse with the voice of the other writer, is illustrated through the journey of one poem. I will discuss how translation can be explorative, creative and dialogical by showing the literary translation of the nineteenth-century Italian poem Traversando la maremma toscana into English, for contemporary reader-viewers, and demonstrate how literary translators can go ‘further’, pushing boundaries, exploring alternative modes, uncovering new narratives.

I am a literary translation theorist and independent researcher. I have co-edited two innovative books in the field of literary translation, pioneering the theory of translation as creative and critical practice (Translation and Creativity, Continuum 2006; One Poem in Search of a Translator, Peter Lang 2008), and a book on theatre translation practices (Staging and Performing Translation, Palgrave 2011). I have taught translation studies at UK universities, published extensively on literary and theatre translation, and now blog on The Creative Literary Studio, on the art of ‘text-making’. I’m currently co-curating TransARTation: Wandering Texts, Travelling Objects, a touring exhibition of inter-art translation (forthcoming 2017).
Web: The Creative Literary Studio: 

Naomi Segal

Naomi will give a brief overview of the ESF-funded research initiative ‘Cultural Literacy in Europe’.

Professor Naomi Segal researches in comparative literature, gender, psychoanalysis and the body. She is the author of 86 articles and 16 books. Her most recent monographs are Consensuality: Didier Anzieu, gender and the sense of touch (2009), AndrénGide: Pederasty and Pedagogy (1998) and The Adulteress’s Child (1992), and she recently translated a psychoanalytic text into English: Didier Anzieu’s The Skin-ego (2016, orig. 1995). Since 1999 she has served on or chaired numerous inter/national committees including within ESF, HERA and the AHRB/C. She has run the international initiative Cultural Literacy in Europe (see ) since its origin in 2007.

Ricarda Vidal

Mending the Rift?
In his writings on language and translation, Walter Benjamin suggested that exact translation is impossible, not only because of the non-existence of synonymy between different languages, but also, and more importantly, because there is already a rift in any language between an original thought and its articulation. Starting from the basis of an expanded notion of language which includes word-based as well as non-word-based languages such as painting, photography, dance or film, I will examine whether intersemiotic and multiple translation have the potential to mend the rift identified by Benjamin or will simply expose and possibly aggravate it further, thus revealing the richness as well as the imprecision of language. Drawing on examples from my project Translation Games, I will also make a few suggestions about what intersemiotic and multiple translation can do for cross-cultural literacy.

Dr Ricarda Vidal is a lecturer, translator and curator. She teaches in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s College London is the founder of Translation Games.
Ricarda has published numerous articles and book chapters and is the author of Death and Desire in Car Crash Culture: A Century of Romantic Futurisms (Peter Lang, 2013) and co-editor (with Maria-José Blanco) of The Power of Death: Contemporary Reflections on Death in Western Society (Berghahn, 2014) and (with Ingo Cornils) of Alternative Worlds: Blue-Sky Thinking since 1900 (Peter Lang, 2014). Together with the artist Sam Treadaway she also runs the bookwork project Revolve:R (, an exploration of visual communication in collaboration with 24 international artists.