What if the 'Google Translate' button on your computer was a human chain, not a digital machine? What if translators could also become artists - and vice versa? How can translation be curated? These are some of the questions that the Translation Games project is trying to answer.
Translation Games, co-curated by Ricarda Vidal (KCL) and Jenny Chamarette (QMUL), and sponsored by King's Cultural Institute and the German Department at KCL, is an innovative project exploring creative collaborations between translators, artists, curators and scholars. Modelled on the game of Chinese Whispers, where a message is passed from person to person and goes through various stages of transformation, we use this ‘game’ format to explore translation as a critical and creative concept, for literature and for the fine arts. The project itself is a large-scale, fast-paced collaboration between students, artists, translators, curators and digital designers, and has resulted so far in an experimental game, a very popular exhibition, a Twitter translation competition and a digital platform: www.translationgames.org
In June and July last year, we commissioned American writer Colleen Becker to write a short story, “What We Made”. This served as a source text for both the literary and artistic translations, and was translated from one language into the next - from English into Urdu and French, from French into Italian and Turkish, from Italian into Spanish, from Spanish into Portuguese and back into French, from the second French translation into German and Romanian and back into English - by a team of student translators from King's College London and Queen Mary, University of London. In a parallel strand, the original text was from one art genre into the next - from text to film, from film to ceramics, from ceramics to sound, from sound to movement - by a group of artists: filmmaker Anna Cady, ceramicist Matt Rowe, sound and installation artist Aura Satz and dancer-choreographer Mayuri Boonham. The original text, and the Spanish and Turkish translations, were translated into textile by three designers: Scott Ramsay Kyle, Shaheen Kasmani and Reyhan Yazici. The results of the project were transformed into an interactive catalogue, a responsive website and a physical exhibition, which also showcased digital interventions that captured human voices in jars, and spoken word performances that transformed written translations into an art intervention.
Exploring the theory and practice of translation within literature, i.e. between languages, and in the fine arts, i.e. between art genres and art practices, the project is developing creative solutions to raise awareness of the important role of translation as a transformative concept for the arts, for language learning and for the UK's creative sector.
This event gave a brief demonstration and discussion of the project, including a roundtable with the curators, Vidal and Chamarette, and other participants (artists, designers, translators and students), projections of some of the artworks, and a sound performance. It also gave members of the public interested in translation a taster of some of the ways to get involved in the project.
Jenny Chamarette is an academic and curator with a particular interest in film and the visual arts: she has published on film and art theory, contemporary French philosophy, and moving image installation. Originally starting out in Modern Languages (teaching French literature and translation), Jenny is now a Lecturer in Film Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. Outside academia, she has programmed and curated short film festivals and artist’s moving image exhibitions in Nottingham and Cambridge, and is currently working as an art writer with a loose collective of artists formed through an Escalator Retreat at Wysing Art Centre in the East of England. Jenny has a long-standing collaboration with Anna Cady, one of the artists in Translation Games. She enjoys working collaboratively, and is particularly interested in play and experimentation as a way of informing practice-based research.
Ricarda Vidal is a lecturer, curator and translator. She teaches at King’s College London and has published on urban space, the legacy of Modernism and Romanticism, speed, the car and driving as cultural phenomena as well as society’s fascination with death and murder. Outside academia, she is founding director of the international short film competition and archive Betting on Shorts and, together with Sam Treadaway leads the bookart project Revolve:R. She has worked with Tate Public Programmes, the ICA, and international venues and film festivals. Recent curatorial work includes an exhibition on death at Senate House, University of London and shows with the GHost Project at the London Art Fair and the Folkestone Triennial Fringe 2011. Ricarda sees Translation Games as a way to combine her various interests in the theory and practice of translation and artmaking in one project.