Translation / Traduction - @ Basekamp (Philadelphia)

18.09.2004 > 31.10.2004


Basekamp 723 chestnut st, second floor, Philadeplie, pa 19106
Opening and performance 18.09.2001
Philadelpha : 16:00 | Paris : 22:00

The revolution took place in New York by Gregory Chatonsky
Googlehouse, The Inhabitants by Marika Dermineur
Des Fleurs, Om, Incidence by Reynald Drouhin
Ladies by KRN
Ram, Submission, Extract by Julie Morel
Dialogues by Michael Sellam

with the funds from Etant donnes (The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art) / AFAA.

On our screens and in our existence, 0 and 1, an unbroken serie of numbers translate our sensations into images, texts and sounds. From identical elements, have emerged a complex perceptive web.

Translation is a problematic which allows us to question the deep ambivalence in the digital. On one hand Digital constrains various medias (images, texts, videos, etc.) into a unique language formed of 0 and 1, which makes it translatable in a literal way, on the other hand an exact translation is impossible.

Then how can we translate, i.e. interpret the behaviour of the viewer in an interactive system? How can we translate a text into an image in order to construct a story? What are the places that allow us to go between technologies and our affects? Is the simplicity of binary language a source of inaccurate translations, separation effects and shifts, which would open new and unpredictable significance? Translation incidents offer a world of possibilities and it questions the disjunctive relation between an aesthetic system and the very plural public. Is Art a foreign language, impossible to translate? What is the resistance of translation?

Is it the transfer from one language to another that allows the significance to be transmitted? And isn’t thought always dreamt as translatable[1]?

Can the signifier and signified be divided? And if some untranslatable exist, isn’t it the absolute dream of peculiarity, a sort of absolute unique form? But translation must take place, therefore an impossible possible. One can and has to translate, especially when it is possible.

One speaks easily of the impossibility of translation. It is a current experience for a translator to find that task impossible. This possibility is thought in continuity with difficulty, and the difficulty starts with the first sentence. For the translator translates events before translating words. Even a word is already being carried away by the sentence, the syntax. In this difficult angle, the heroic and angelic task of a translator is so hard that it becomes too difficult to carry on. It is impossible.

But this impossibility defies the possibility of translation. In continuity with it, nothing is translatable, nothing is untranslatable.

Another impossibility exists, or a new order of impossibility, both more simple and more radical, which would have nothing to do with difficulty, but it is a rather silly one. Here it goes: when the language of a text is remarked/noted as a natural language, it can’t be translated. A simple sentence: « Cette phrase est en francais » (this sentence is in French). The words “cette phrase” refer to this sentence where these words are, it cannot translate because its meaning is mixed with its truth in act. The sentence does not cause any problem of meaning, it is not hard to translate, it is impossible.

This capacity of a language to be itself happens every time it uses the idiom. For example “apprendre par coeur” (to learn by heart). The language curls itself up its idiom, tries to protect her identity, and it is that which invites and calls a mechanical[2] way which would not be called translation anymore.

Another example is Bilingualism: The studies related to bilingual phenomenon are various[3]: There are Julien Green, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov and Franz Kafka as examples of auto-translation. Beckett writing at the speed of the thought in a language which is not his, as if the thought - this speed of interiority - was always foreign.

Gregory Chatonsky

[1] Jacques Derrida, « Donner du temps » (de la traduction).
[2] Many translaters are online, for example :
[3] To quote only some of them : « Bilinguisme et contact des langues », by William F., Klincksieck, 1977, « Attitudes et representation liees a l’emploi du bilinguisme », by Maurice Riguet, Publications de La Sorbonne, 1984.