The show posits the artist as translator, intermediary and interpreter of phenomena. In this equation, the role of the artist is to take pre-existing subject matter x, and transform it in into y – making visible the messy, illuminating and sometimes funny – process of translation. The act of literary translation is an inherently imperfect but idealistic endeavor, where the impossibility of true accuracy is overridden in favor of de-mystifying an Other. With the artists of x ≈ y as our guide, we gain multiple entry points to new forms of interpretation, and are nudged toward a mutually less obscured understanding.
Asuka Goto’s Lost in Translation series notates her attempts to translate a novel written by her father from his native Japanese into her native English, phrase by painstaking phrase. The process reveals the poignant and sometimes hilarious moments of missed messages between father and daughter; the resulting narrative is so fragmented and dense as to render it nearly impossible to comprehend.
Nina Katchadourian contributes video documentation of Talking Popcorn, a sculpture that turns the popping sound made by a popcorn machine into Morse code, transmitting the results into spoken language via a computer-generated voice. Much like the act of translation itself, the sculpture takes on a life and narrative of its own, anthropomorphizing the desire to find meaning in the gap between human and machine.
Chloë Bass contributes an installation of her Book of Everyday Instruction, Chapter Three: We walk the world two by two, a permanent installation in Greensboro, NC, that translates places of significance in the everyday lives of local residents into commemorative plaques. The project “make(s) public otherwise unseen and unremarkable events, highlighting them as an essential element of how we develop place over time.”
Mona Saeed Kamal’s delicately wrapped sculptures honor the Tawaeez. In Urdu, Tawaeez are prayers that are wrapped around fabric, tied with string and worn on the body in the Muslim world. The personal handwritten texts that Kamal has crafted are hidden from the viewer inside each parcel of cloth, leaving the piece open to interpretation.
Torkwase Dyson and Byron Kim use the formal language of painting to turn meaning into material. Dyson uses the language of architectural diagrams and abstraction to create a lexicon of signifiers that reference systemic disenfranchisement and slavery while considering the negotiation of the body through historically informed space, while Kim’s ongoing series Sunday Paintings (2001-) replicates the appearance of the sky on a given Sunday. Superimposed with a diaristic text documenting the minutiae of daily life, these paintings commit, week after week, year after year, to the immediacy of the present via the everyday presence of the sky; to finding the profound in the mundane.