Bill Murray, opening segment from Lost In Translation, 2003. Directed by Sofia Coppola. Screenplay by Sofia Coppola. Produced by Ross Katz and Sofia Coppola. Studio: American Zoetrope; Tohokushinsha Film. Distributed by Focus Features
Director [in Japanese]: Mr. Bob-san, you are relaxing in your study. On the table is a bottle of Suntory whiskey. Got it? Look slowly, with feeling, at the camera, and say it gently—say it as if you were speaking to an old friend, just like Bogie in Casablanca, “Here’s looking at you, kid’—“Suntory time.”
Ms. Kawasaki: Umm. He want you to turn, looking at camera. OK?
Bob: That’s all he said?
Ms. Kawasaki: Yes. Turn to camera.
—Lost in Translation (2003), a film by Sofia Coppola
“Translation is possible and impossible at the same time.” —Modesta Di Paola, Translation in Visual Arts (2013)
Translation has long been perceived not as an art as much as a necessity, an imperfect implement deployed in the interest of communication across some barrier. But even where loyalty to the original holds sway, it is never as simple as a one-to-one correlation. Translation requires creative transformation.
In academe, translation is tendered as a process that enables permeability across a tangle of disciplines and agendas. It is discussed against the backdrop of exoticism and the colonial enterprise while the field of Translation Studies focuses not on standards of verisimilitude but on an increasingly fluid “paradigm of mediation,” a “multifaceted and interdisciplinary act…manifested in a multitude of synonyms such as ‘emulating,’ ‘adapting,’ ‘rewriting,’ and ‘recreating.’”1
In recent decades, translation has jumped its banks. It has moved beyond the ideal of taut correlations into the realm of shared impulses and multiple authors, where circles of interpretation—and misinterpretation—overlap and converge. In this global commons, where information flows nonstop, translation acts as an interlocutor of hybrid texts and a mediator for unstable states. It is a passage instead of a place, a process and not a result.
In light of our ongoing, post-postmodern moment of rip, burn, copy, and remix, it might be useful to think of translation in terms of transmission. A pulsed signal is sent; information is broken into packets and coalesces into a whole once it reaches its readers, listeners, and viewers, who in turn relay the message to their own contacts. As in a game of telephone, the original message changes with each transmission. Information gets lost while new information accrues along the way.
In the visual arts, translation, transformation, and transmission are intertwined. In the arena of copyright, fair use, and appropriation, we say transformative use to denote a standard of creative translation, as when a preexisting object or artwork is sourced and repurposed to produce something new. Source materials are transformed through translation into novel forms and subsequent transmission to new audiences and contexts, and new artworks are born.
Perhaps, in this age of sharing and remixing art and information, translation will soon be embraced as the paradigm for the art of our time and not simply as a process of faithful renderings. Maybe translators will finally be seen as the artists they are, and artists will be understood as translators.
Of course, not everyone greets this prospect with enthusiasm.
[Read full article @ Art21...]