or The Only Thing About You That We Could Fathom
May – August 2013, King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London
exhibition 29th July to 1st August 2013, Old Anatomy Museum, King’s College London
Watch a short docu about Translation Games 2013 “What We Made” by Carla Steinberg or scroll down for individual translations.
In summer 2013 we ran our first Translation Game with four artists, three designers and student translators from King’s College London and Queen Mary University of London.
We commissioned a source text from American writer Colleen Becker, “What We Made”, which was translated through a chain of languages by our student translators. At each step in the chain the text was also translated back into English.
We covered Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Turkish and Urdu.
In a parallel strand, the text was translated into film by Anna Cady, from film to ceramics by Matt Rowe, from ceramics to audiovisuals by Aura Satz and from audiovisuals to dance by Mayuri Boonham. Only the first translator/artist had access to the original source text.
The original text and the Spanish and Turkish translations were translated into textile by three designers: Scott Ramsay Kyle (English to embroidery), Reyhan Yazici (Turkish to two complete outfits), Shaheen Kasmani (silk painting).
Exhibition and Performances
The results of the project were transformed into an interactive flip-book catalogue designed by Ricarda Vidal, a website designed by Alex Spyropolous, and a physical exhibition, which also showcased digital interventions by Katja Knecht and spoken word performances by Ana Amália da Silva, Andre Freixeiro, Bethany Pyner, Christina Vieira Barry, Emilie Oleron, Georgina Chen-Prosser, Katie Chadd, and Raluca Chereji.
While each designer and artist worked with different methods and techniques just as each of our linguistic translators had to choose their own style from amongst the diversity and peculiarity of their target language, we were as surprised and amazed by the similarities and parallels of each translation as we were by the discrepancies and divergences between them.
Colleen Becker’s original text:
What We Made
I once knew a boxer who regularly needed to punch someone in the face to feel relaxed and right about his place in the world. I’m not like that: I don’t need to punch people in the face to feel good about and within myself. My temperament is nearly his opposite. I confront the world through stillness; I contort my limbs into postures that resemble plants and animals, I worship the sun.
He and I conceived, but what emerged was less a presence than an absence. At first, there was the mere sliver of a form; hardly anything at all, we thought, or at least nothing noteworthy. Thriving on our neglect, it evolved, expanded and developed its own traits. It had a tone, a texture and a flavor, which was bittersweet.
First it enveloped, and then it replaced, us. We suffocated, atomized, and reverted to me and him. When we recognized what it had done, we each responded in our characteristic ways. He pummeled it with swift, staccato jabs of his fists, seeking to control it, to force it into submission. But there was nothing to defeat, and no clear path to victory. I twisted and turned about, observing it from different angles, hoping to achieve a point of view that would help me better understand it. But it defied reason, as well. What we made was so vast, that, finally, there was nothing more for us to do but face each other across the widening gulf and wave goodbye.
The Literary Translations
Here are the different versions of the title in the various languages and in their retranslation into English
Urdu: ہم نے کیا کیا؟ (What have we made?)
French 1: Ce que nous avons construits (What we created)
Turkish: Yarattığımız şey (The thing we created/What we created)
Italian: Ciò che vi abbiamo costruito (That which we created)
Spanish: Lo que os hemos construido (What we’ve built you)
Brazilian Portuguese: O que construímos (What we created)
French 2: Ce que nous avons construits de vous (This is what we have made of you)
Romanian: Ceea ce am făcut din voi (What I made of you)
German: Das, was wir an euch verstanden (The only thing about you that we could fathom)
Click on the language knot to have a look at the full literary translations, which are reproduced on the old translationgames.org website.
The Artistic Translations
Anna Cady’s translation of Colleen Becker’s “What We Made”:
Matt Rowe’s ceramic translation of Anna Cady’s film:
Aura Satz’s audiovisual translation of Matt Rowe’s ceramic installation:
Some objects arrived in a box. Wrapped, silent, fragile. Connected yet distinct. Taking them out one by one they are a puzzle that does not fit. One is a hollow tree of sorts, with a record groove, an inside – darker in its own shadows. Like a singular growth ring marking time past, the outer shell of a slow clock made from imaginary concentric circles in the wood. The other is the leftover lip of a potter’s vase, fingerprints smoothed to become a continuous linear furrow. Two lips touching, precariously held together. The last solid fragility is shiny yellow with a golden lining. It curves in an endless loop. Unlike the others, it has a right side up. The gold lies underneath.
Three tools are also included. Prehistoric chisels attached to uncategorised cutlery. Some are articulated for better clutching. A sharp arrow with a knitting needle at its axis and a flag at its tail. Desperate electric twine wire. By resisting use, they become visible. Hold them, feel the awkward weight. The instructions state to intervene. Use one to overwhelm the other. Action. Through, with, one against another. Marking, making, bringing into sound.
Mayuri Boonham’s choreographic translation of Aura Satz’s audiovisual piece:
The Textile Translations
Scott Ramsay-Kyle translated the original text into embroidery, Shaheen Kasmani translated the Spanish translation into a silk painting and Reyhan Yazici translated the Turkish translation into two complete outfits.
On the opening night, eight students put on a short performance based on Katja’s Knecht’s digital “Sound Jar” piece. Watch a video of the rehearsal for the performance.
Here are some images from the exhibition set-up and the opening in the Old Anatomy Museum at King’s College on 31st July 2013.
Digital Exhibition: www.translationgames.org
You can look at the artworks and designs and make comparisons between the literary translations on the website, which was originally created by Alex Spyropolous as a digital component of the physical exhibition.
The Department of German, King’s College London