"Between Languages and Cultures"
The Press on "Found in Translation"at the Deutsche Guggenheim
In our age of globalization, the world seems to be getting smaller and smaller as an increasing number of people cross boundaries of language and culture. Yet when words are translated into another language, they transport more than just their meaning. The translator’s interpretation and intention, his or her own cultural background all become a part of the new text as well. The show "Found in Translation"at the Deutsche Guggenheim, in which international artists investigate a linguistic task that only seems simple on the surface, addresses this phenomenon. The reaction on the part of the press was mixed.
"Translating language becomes a means for young and inspiring conceptual art,"says
Christel Dalhoff on the TV channel 3sat in her report on Found in Translation."What role does translation play in a world where almost everyone speaks English? A huge one: this becomes evident in the many fascinating works (…) in this small, but elegant show."Anna Pataczek of the Tagesspiegel writes: "It starts getting interesting when art reveals the dark sides of misunderstanding and exploitation."The work of Matt Keegan makes this especially clear: it demonstrates the way in which an English teacher "simultaneously instructs her students, for the most part adult immigrants from Central and Latin America, in a model American way of life."For Barbara Wiegand of Deutschlandradio, "the artists take on the theme as an obvious metaphor, as encoded poetry or a complex allegory (…) and even while there’s enough to read in the exhibition, the overall impression is neither dry nor over-intellectualized (…) most of the artists are highly concentrated and dig deep into the theme, using translation as a model and a metaphor, as a symbol for the change and loss in meaning. They happen upon the unexpected and discover new connections where things are so often lost in the gaps between languages and cultures."
On the other hand, Bela Akunin of the website Kunst+Film fails to find anything he likes: "the works all fall short of clarifying what’s unique to translation work: selecting from among alternatives, weighing subtly between them to decide which one is better. This is why the exhibition remains stuck in its own claim—there’s nothing really good to discover here."Silke Hohmann of Monopol was also not exactly convinced: "The selection of works turned out to be oddly uniform: people reciting things, signs, subtitles everywhere. A bit less didacticism, and a bit more of the unregulated chaos that language is would have been much better."For Sina Schroeder of the city magazine Zitty, "the exhibition’s message is clear: translations are productive processes, and we are not ‘lost,’ but ‘found in translation.’"But in order to arrive at this statement, the visitor first has to decipher the works on his or her own. Which is not an easy task, if for instance O Zhang’s photo captions are in Chinese. Thus, the translation of some of the works can fail in the end." Andrea Hilgenstock of tip, apparently a bit rattled, asks: "Can you understand something even without words? Certainly not without knowing something about the complex contexts these works are based in."For Peter Richter of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, the show "doesn’t really offer an antithesis to Sofia Coppola’s feel-good film Lost in Translation: here, too, the difference between cultures and languages produces uneasiness more than anything else, a kind of poetry at best, for the most part that tongue-in-cheek type of Bill Murray humor." Volkmar Draeger of Neues Deutschland sees this quite differently: "The Deutsche Guggenheim has made a remarkable contribution towards showing the facts about translation in a literal sense. Found in Translation is the title of the exhibition in which nine international artists use conceptual art to show what they’ve found to be funny, interesting, or frightening during their exploration of the theme." And Johannes Wendland of the Handelsblatt is excited about the show: "Exhibitions in the Berlin Guggenheim branch have always been very compact and high-level. It’s rare, however, that an exhibition here has posed so many interesting questions and inspired people to stop and think in this way."