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"Chinese whispers" commission marks AHRC's 10th anniversary

CMCI's Dr Ricarda Vidal, and Dr Maria-José Blanco from the Department of Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies have developed and created a project marking the 10th anniversary of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The AHRC revealed the results of this special collaboration between a critically-acclaimed poet and 12 artists to mark the organisation’s 10th anniversary last week. 

Still in Translation is a poetic and artistic translation game, unveiled for the first time in the AHRC’s online Image Gallery.

Sharon Kivland
(c) Sharon Kivland, no title, translation of Sarah’s image, 8-15 April 2015: “I live in two languages, haunted by a third. There is constant movement as a word thought in one language passes into a spoken word in another. This happens in the life between one image (another’s) and another (mine). An image, precisely thought, is – and passes through – a mirror. This is quite a literal translation of the image that preceded it (the gap or void, the blue cast that is taken from the image before, the decorative detail that might be supposed to be feminine). It is impossible to keep completely still, even when caught or fixed."


The gallery takes Still, an unpublished poem by award-winning English poet Denise Riley, as a starting point. Twelve contemporary artists responded to the poem, including Sharon Kivland, Domingo Martinez, and Sam Treadaway. The artistic translation process sees the poem become in turns a t-shirt, a catheter bag, a plant pot, and a funeral urn. 

“Following the rules of Chinese Whispers, the poem was given to an artist with the commission to translate the words into imagery," says Dr Vidal. "The artist then passed on their image, but not the original text, to another artist. We were astonished by the results. Is it mere coincidence that the final image captures so much of the original meaning?”

Sarah Sparkes
(c) Sarah Sparkes, ‘Gap between the nothing’, translation of Bryan’s image, 1-8 April 2015: "Although I have stayed close, in compositional respects to Bryan's work, there is a gap through which something other has slipped in. I looked intensely at Bryan’s image, wanting mine to enable me to conjure the ghost of his. I assembled my visual signs – techniques, symbols and material processes that are my own native creative language - and started making actual objects and photographing them, then created a digital collage from these. On my computer, Bryan’s image had a blue cast, which is reflected in my translation.”

The AHRC Image Gallery is designed to showcase the range of digital images generated either as by-products or as outputs of research projects in the arts and humanities as a means of highlighting the richness and diversity of images created and used within the arts and humanities and to showcase the talents of those who create them, including those of doctoral students and early career researchers. 

View the “Still in Translation” Image Gallery on the AHRC website.