Art in Translation conference


Art in Translation – 2012











Who Speaks: Speaking through the Voice of another VII,  Nordic House, Reykjavik, Iceland 26th May 2011

I have just returned from performing at the second international Art In Translation conference, Reykjavik, Iceland.

The performance comprised of live and recorded audio to create a polyphonic sound work that oscillates between sense and nonsense, where the linguistic and sonic qualities of language merge together.  The work uses multiple translations of a phrase that she gathered in person and via Skype conversations from multilingual speakers and translators, at international conferences, language cafes. These audio recordings have been layered and structured into a sound track which functions as a starting point for an improvised performance that responds to what is heard. Thereby using the interplay between the embodied and disembodied voices to investigate the precarious nature of translation and subjectivity and to exemplify the polyvocal nature of translation.


ART IN TRANSLATION conference report – May 2010

Art in Translation – international conference on language and the arts at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland.

The sun set about 11pm but it hardly got dark


I had a couple of hours on the 1st day to look around the town and visit some of the art galleries before attending the keynote address and exhibition launch.

The photography festival filled the city with intimate images.


It was a multi-modal, inter-disciplinary event with delegates from around the world e.g. from the Philippines, Mexico, Australia, Ukraine, Estonia, Finland, Mexico, Canada, Croatia, Israel etc.

There were plenty of opportunities to network and discuss this phenomenon.  I thoroughly enjoyed observing the alternative interpretations of the conference themes and the fruitfulness of informally discussing issues of art and translation, over dinner, coffee with individuals who speak so many different languages.

Heather and Arlene Tucker (artist and masters student in Semiotics at University of Tartu, Estonia) can be seen outside enjoying a coffee break.

One of the key issues that appeared again and again was the position and experience of Minority Languages.  How can these languages be translated successfully, without watering down and loosing nuances and cultural specificity, how can we enable effective communication? What is the effect of relay translation?

The Icelandic community has a very strong folklore tradition, which was repeatedly alluded to (particularly evident in Guy Maddin’s films – which leads to a very particular ways of telling stories, which is something I have noted when working with communities in the USA.  Tales from the Gimli Hospital’ highlighted the role of  narrative in translation and translating cultures, as well as drawing my attention to issues of the migration and how this can influence translation, language use etc.

Many of the Icelanders I spoke to continually referred to the creation of new words  – there seemed to be a desire to create new Icelandic terms to describe or capture particular concepts or new phenomenon – there was a consciousness about the language as a living, changing thing.  This was most obvious in the presentation about FRAFL during which they discussed the potential adoption of the acronym into Icelandic so that ‘frafl’ would act as a ‘signifier’, explaining this new approach to working with Icelandic artists.  Icelandic appeared to be a continually evolving and adaptable language, very much alive and important to the community within which it is spoken

A number of  Artists  performed during the conference.  One particular Icelandic artist/dancer, Andrea Hördur Hardarson (PhD candidate at the University of Iceland) presented a live performance, which clearly demonstrated research in action.  He used the opportunity to test out his ideas – briefly contextualising his research as part of the performance – it was exciting to see how this could be done in action.

The Three ‘performers’ entered into an improvised  dialogue; written, physical and responsive.  At times the writer (writing as we watched) seemed to report and translate the dancers movements, at others he appeared to be dictating them and others inspiring them.  Hardarsan entered into the dialogue half way through and began to physically mimic and react to the dancers movements recalling some of the earlier poses, rhythms and positions that he had struck.  The text appeared as the writer typed and was erased as the screen became full.  The performance was documented by a photography and uploaded onto a large screen at the end, each stage translated and fed back into each other.  Hardarson will continue to develop this work and has two other performances planned to complete his research over the next few years.


The conference helped to consolidate my ideas and confirm that there was an inter-disciplinary audience and an international context for my research.  As a direct result of this I have been invited to create work specifically for “Culture in Mediation: Total Translation, Complementary Perspectives” at the University of Tartu, Estonia seeinternational projects for further details.



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