Reading Group

“This “translation” work is one of the most complex and fascinating aspects undertaken by the curator looking to import works born elsewhere into the world of contemporary art. Translating means taking account of the morphology and syntax of both languages. Often comprehension is only possible if both sides make hefty compromises (the way things sound, the nuances of meaning): it is up to a good translator to get those compromises to work for the text being translated. The good translator has to take account of his or her own limits, the culture (or lack thereof) of his or her readers and their ideological stances. If the translator is translating for the first time, he or she will choose an easy text; if the translation is from an almost unknown culture into his or her native language, he or she will choose a culturally simpler text before moving onto something more complex, or if translating from a culture that some people have reservations about, the translator will try to use the translation to render it more acceptable.”

“So how does a good translation come about? It is basically about identifying the essence of a work and trying to translate that into another language. In general, in the contemporary art world, if the technological interface, connectivity, processual nature, accessibility, openness and non-uniqueness of an artwork are not essential, it is a good idea to set them aside. If these characteristics are essential, it is better to keep them: the art world is mature enough to accept open, replicable, processual pieces if this is an essential part of the work, and if their value can be transferred onto something else […] The main thing is that the translator has to be not just bilingual but bicultural. That said, translations must be crafted on a case by case basis, by the artist or curator (if possible, in constant contact with the artist).”