in Gothenburg in June 2015 at the NORLIT “The Future of the Book” conference hosted at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, where she presented her work during the keynote of the conference. The multilingual, multimodal quality of her work attracts the interest of other artists as well as scholars in literary, linguistic, and fine arts fields. After reading the available scholarly articles, announcements, programs, and conducting an interview with her, I wanted to offer a dialogue, Sprach–Spiele through verbal and other modes, set between the issues addressed in the contributions to this special issue of Imaginations and Rinne’s multimodal work. How does the choreography of letters she performs on the page and elsewhere nuance the
meaning of a word and what does that mean for printed text translations? Do trans-modal or multi-modal trans-lations—by way of reading, layout, type-setting, or digital technology—accumulate into one multi-layered perceived meaning or do they produce different meanings through different perceptions? Can we all hear and see the same thing at the same time?
To prepare the game: Instead of presenting the artist Cia Rinne here in the form of a conventional interview, this contribution wants to stage a playground for thoughts and responses to her artwork and the topic of translation. Drawing on primary sources, conversations between the author, other scholars and the poet, and the themes of this special issue, I attempt to show further possibilities for engaging, or spielen (playing), the connections between | translation and visibility—and beyond.
are three projects that include minimalist texts which explore phonetic similarities and shifts. The works for this “Dialogue” are chosen mostly from these projects. Their starting point is most often an idea, a question, or quotation. Through visual (zaroum), sonic, rhythmic and melodic interpretation on page (notes for soloistes, l’usage du mot) and in her performances, Rinne exposes possible nuancing of meaning in a polyglot (mainly but not restricted to German, English and French) environment. The following Spiel invites you to look, click—in the order of your liking—and com/paire.
SPIEL 2: Thought (Seeing ↔ Listening)
SPIEL 3 – LIKE SPIEL OHNE? OHNO1
Would you describe the changes that occur between different modalities of a poem, orality, print and animated print as a translation?
Yes, that could be called translation. Some of the pieces in the archives zaroum I imagined as tactile objects, bodily. I had a sign in mind that could be flipped over and which on one side said ON, and on the other side said NO. So I imagined a realisation in form of a revolving movement right from the start. Certainly not in digital form, rather as an installation, but the effect is similar: through the rotations the word ON is sometimes also readable as NO, which illustrates the graphemic connection of both words. In a book, this cannot be shown so clearly because the words are printed one after the other and separate from each other onto the page. This is why I used drawings in those cases. Likewise, the interrelation between the verses “TO GET HER” and “(together)” also work better in digital form than in the book. The translation into a different modality in this case is a composition, or a “neo-configuration. This is also the case, when different pieces are set together to make new piece, as, for example, for “Enough”, “rien / à / voir / dans / le / noir” and “DIFFERENCE / ici” from zaroum and their neo-configuration in the archives zaroum. I believe these processes reveal many different layers, which is altogether a form of translation, from medium to medium. Exhibitions, which show my pieces, also transfer and translate text into other contexts, and in the process something becomes real. I therefore call poems that are displayed in a particular form during an exhibition “realisation pieces”. (Benthien and Vorrath 4-5, translation mine)1
The translation between thought and language is not limited to moving between linguistic systems in Rinne’s work. Rather one encounters a symphonic orchestration of thought, senses, and language. The question is, of course, whether such an orchestration is only a matter of theoretical or aesthetic perspective or whether this needs to be considered for “normal,” everyday use(r)s of language. Current neurological research on how “i-media” (Swingle) influences our cognitive development, social skills, and overall communication patterns supports the latter. The American psychotherapist and researcher Mari K. Swingle, for example, compares “i-speak,” in this case texting or txt, with communication practices in multilingual environments, such as sub-conversations and language layering:
the way one chooses to alter a word or phrase through pseudo or new “spellings,” as well as emphatic emotive, and otherwise meaning conveying formatting, indeed can create subtle but very distinct differences. With texting, one can very efficiently selectively make meaning deeper, more precise, and yes, exclusive. Which brings me to a second feature, the sub-conversation. Again, prior to i-tech, this was a feature exclusive to multilingual individuals. Polyglots, fully knowing what languages people do or do not speak, switch languages accordingly. (183)
The pattern Swingle identifies for mixed-media communication is that “common conversation,” which involves everyone at the dinner table, so to speak, is “usually verbal,” while “sub-conversation,” which is selective, is usually “technologically mediated.” In her assessment, such sub-conversation or “switching” by txt or other i-media can, “if not malicious,” be enriching and, “with i-tech and digital natives” at least, has become a “regular practice” (183).
Swingle further points out that older “digital immigrants,” like myself, “miss the positive potential of screen technology” (183). Not in the sense that we might miss the practical, pedagogical uses, but rather in the sense that some ideas can be translated better into digital form, and that certain digital information, which becomes available by way of ethical data mining, might improve our understanding of and policies for contemporary society.
Some of Rinne’s ideas, such as “turn on” and “to get her,” work better as pieces translated into digital form than pieces translated into print form. Another way of looking at this is by way of Silvia Pireddu’s analysis of catalogue translation in this special issue of Imaginations. I believe that her assessment that a “failure to negotiate and adapt translation to such multiple polarities” (that come into play when verbal and visual information exist in a shared space) “may lead to varying degrees of interpretive breakdown on the part of the end-user” is not only applicable to translation as a product but also as a discipline. If the older “digital immigrants” do not partake, in other words, fail to negotiate and adapt their view of translation to i-tech, this may lead to varying degrees of interpretive breakdown on the part of the end-user, that is between older and younger generations of translators, between teachers (and scholars) and students enrolled in translation studies programs.
Digital multimedia writing (and translation) operates from an entirely different neurological platform: one that mines the latest neurological findings about colour preferences, orientations in foreign environments, and psychological predispositions, as well as personal data to produce irresistible products for their “readers.” In other words, digital writing operates in a value system that encourages the exploitation of humans and emphasizes profit making without clearly defined ethical boundaries. Thomas Metzinger describes this as the entrance to an era which redefines the concept “humans”:
Neuro-psychological research itself offers nothing that […] could lead to a practicable ethic and grounded consensus for everyday life. Therefore, and because we must not confuse “das Sein”, that which is, with “Sollen”, that which ought to be; we need to confront the findings of modern brain research keeping two matters carefully apart: How is the human in reality? And how should the human be in the future? (54, translation mine)2
As I write this article, the EU’s new rule for general information protection is set into place. The German documentary film, Democracy – Im Rausch der Daten (2015), reveals the complexity of both the political process and of legally framing public and commercial usage of personal information. The film shows an excerpt of a roundtable debate during which one speaker makes a compelling argument for personal data mining:
“We worked with the Atlanta Public Schools and determined that the best indicator of graduation from high school was not whether your parents were rich, not whether you had internet at home but it was whether you took creative writing in the ninth grade.” (19:57)
Scholarly programs that do not address these questions leave the next generations of students and translators to become complicit in the production of what several philosophers (Precht; Metzinger), neurotherapists, behaviourists, and psychotherapists (Greenfield; Rosen; Swingle), as well as media and communications experts (Olsson et al.) now refer to as risk-technology.
From this difference in reading and writing arrives also a problem of interpretation or communication between older “digital immigrants” and younger “digital natives.” While we may assume that the older generation draws on a religiously informed or intuitively holistic understanding of human beings, digital immigrants might actually lack this wider normative frame of reference. The growing privatization of the language industry, that is, the structural trend towards self-employed freelancers following the economic downturn since 2009, is leaving this generation vulnerable to economic exploitation that has begun to transform their understanding of society and of themselves (Moorkens). We might still worry whether machine-aided translation is advancing or destroying translation, which implies that machine and human translation compete with each other. Meanwhile, digital translation is absorbing the translator, mining their expertise (through specially designed programs) and confusing ideas about who they really are with ideas about how they ought to produce.3
SPIEL 4 (in) 3 – Part A: REFLECTIONS
Rinne describes her work as a way of “trying to get as far away as possible from writing,” through which she then shows “that which is hidden in the language” (Kölling/Rinne 2018, Transkript). The contributors to this special edition have all taken their point of reflection from a form that is other to translation—a cover, a poster, a website, a catalogue, an exhibition, an idea, a newspaper article, a book of poetry—to show that which is hidden in translation. They outline current developments in mixed-mode translation and how this might affect the user. What is more, they address the growing polarizations between verbal translation and i-tech in the form of a productive conversation: not taking one side or the other, but trying to form a view which turns ideas together. Such a view begins to acknowledge that there is a growing readership for whom reading is more than following lines of letters on the page, deciphering the words and assigning a dictionary meaning to them. “Digital natives” are all-at-once readers: images, letters, sounds, etc.—and they are capable of producing translations in this mixed-mode. And it is important to understand how they really do it in order to have an informed discussion about whether they should do it. To continue to take for granted that translation is primarily a verbal mode might not only lead to growing break-downs of interpretation between different generations of translators, it might also mean that those who do not partake in this digital shift will not be part of shaping its norms.5
SPIEL (in) 3 PART B: What would there be if there was not me?
One detail that Rinne shared with me in my interview with her surprised me: her self-description of being a lonely worker, whereas my first impression was that her pieces (archives zaroum, sounds for soloists) were mostly collaborative in nature—or a shared experience at least. For me, her projects seemed co-operative, indebted to concrete poetry as much as new advancements in digital technology. This cross-pollination of concrete poetry with digital technology has led me to explore the relationship between analogue and digital modes of translation deeper than I anticipated.
SPIEL 3 PART 3: THE FULL PICTURE: MATERIE (The Idea of a Concrete Translator)
Writing on the page is a singular task: one puts a pen to paper. In theory, it could be entirely possible that a writer has produced all of the necessary tools—paper, ink, and feather—for this enterprise. Typing, however, makes it more likely that one needs to draw on the skills of others for the production of a typewriter, carbon paper, and ink ribbon. Nowadays, it seems near impossible that a single person has built the entire materie, the machine, programmed the software, and so on from which writing is made.
Writing has become a much more communal production process and it might become entirely outmoded for “digital natives” to view writing still as an individual task. What, for example, is my position in the production process of this writing? Just a dot in the digital space? I am acutely aware of the necessary materie that I alone cannot produce nor bring to life. I am not a lonely worker at all.
Rinne’s pieces establish relations, with her audience and through cooperation, by way of linking different languages and modes. I want to use the idea of these relations and entanglements as an opportunity to reimagine translation—to break with the image of the translator as a lonely worker, as well as that of translation as a product of individual consumption.
Materie. Production, consumption. Visibility & Translation. Each of the contributors to this issue argues and shows with the material they present and examine that translations and their visibility is a social task, namely that of imagining and reimagining a planet populated with diverse communities, human and other.
Rinne sent me four photographs taken from “the letter i see” exhibition at the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn, which exhibits A3 braille-prints. Two of the photographs show people looking at her works, the other two just show her works in the empty exhibition space. These images planted a seed, a visual juxtaposition and metaphor, which grew to full thought during a visit to another exhibition in London.
On 8 November 2019, a friend invited me to see Olafur Eliasson’s “In Real Life” exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. It is a peculiar experience. Eliasson constructs natural phenomena, often focussing on processes, such as rain running down a window pane or ice melting, whereby he draws attention to the socio-aesthetic constructedness of “nature.”
“Did we come here to get wet?” a man asks me while I am entering Eliasson’s “Beauty” (1993) installation. It startles me. One is rarely spoken to at exhibitions, let alone by strangers. Normally, the art space is a space of quiet visual consumption.
“Beauty” is a curtain of mist illuminated by spotlights which re-create the spectral phenomenon of a rainbow (FIGURE 7). When I enter the blackened room, I first experience surprise. The humid air settles on my skin, I feel cold, my eyes adjust to the dark rather slowly. I register the rainbow at the same time that the man speaks to me. I look at him. He smiles at me and I smile back. A question, a connection. I look back at the rainbow, trying to figure out what we are here for.
The answer, my answer to the stranger’s question, comes to me as I spend perhaps twenty minutes observing the space. The beauty of this installation lies not in the rainbow itself. It lies in how visitors interact with it. The visitors do get wet: they position themselves within the rainbow to have their photographs taken by their spouse or friend or another family member.
Their expressions are full of joy as they do so. It is joyous to witness this. For a moment, I feel disappointed because I cannot participate. I have no excuse to step into the rainbow and break the barrier between observer and being observed because I am alone here. And I prefer the role of spectator. I feel uncomfortable becoming part of this spectacle, being looked at.
“Beauty” invokes a sense of togetherness which becomes even more prominent as I enter the “Din blinde passager” (“Your blind passenger,” 2010) installation. “Din blinde passager” is a 39-meter-long corridor full of dense fog, which cuts visibility down to a claustrophobic arm’s length (FIGURE 8). It is hard to breathe and move. My eyes, which cannot fix on anything to find orientation in the fog, switch into some kind of overdrive. They search and search and search the fog. This coincides with shortshortshort intakes of breath. The physical response to the experience is dramatized by the effect of other blind passengers appearing (relief) and disappearing (discomfort) in the fog. Judging by their gestures, their experiences are similar to my own.
I could have left this detour through Elisasson’s exhibition out of this article. Perhaps you find it distracting as you read this. But to me it is a punctual note of the production process. The photographs showing “Beauty” and “Din blinde passager” that I included here are taken from Elisasson’s website and the website of an online reviewer of his exhibition in the London Tate Modern in 2019. The images are representative of how his works have been captured for archival and promotional purposes, as well as for the encouragement of academic and emotive discourse (for a more detailed discussion of visuality and translation in the context of visual art and exhibitions see the contributions of Ingram, Perry, and Pireddu to this issue). This is a photograph I took while visiting the exhibition:
There are several points of connection between Eliasson’s and Rinne’s work. Both are forms of translation which manage in a Brechtian sense to make strange norms of seeing and visual meaning-making. In Eliasson’s installations, the roles of nature (which is constructed) and natural (how visitors are physically affected by the installation) are inverted, just as the role of seeing letters and reading by touch are inverted in Rinne’s exhibition of braille prints.
This inversion is not based on the assumption that visitors gifted with sight cannot read braille but on the information in the images that Rinne sent me: the visitors view the prints with their hands in their pockets with lightbulbs placed above the prints for better visibility.
Both Eliasson and Rinne thus employ the art space to invite the visitor to a meta-dialogue about constructed others and/or elsewheres. The norm becomes strange. Visibility becomes strange. The first two photographs draw attention to the visitors viewing the artwork, emphasized by the lightbulbs which are needed to see (and thus also emphasizing the conundrum staged by the artwork).
The latter two images, because they are “empty”, white and without people, emphasize the point of view from which the photographs are taken, meaning, the fact that the image focuses my view on re-enacting/replicating the sole spectator consumption behaviour, and thus excludes the possibility of becoming/perceiving myself as a participant in a communal and solidary act.
This is my conclusion, then:
The art of translation is not the finished product, but the way in which we interact with it and share our interaction with others, and through the inversion of production and consumption by adding our thoughts, ideas, questions and reactions, leer becomes voll.
I would like to thank the editors and reviewers for their thoughtful comments and efforts towards improving this contribution, Cia Rinne for her time and thought-inspiring artwork, and Patrick Spottiswoode for the ticket to Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at the Tate Modern.
Benthien, Claudia, and Wiebke Vorrath. “Cia Rinne im Gespräch mit Claudia Benthien und Wiebke Vorrath.” Übersetzen und Rahmen. Praktiken medialer Transformationen, edited by Benthien und Gabriele Klein, Fink, 2017, pp. 149-62.
Democracy–Im Rausch der Daten. Directed by David Bernet, Indi Film, 2015, http://www.democracy-film.de. Accessed 04 August 2020.
Greenfield, Patricia Marks. Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video Games, and Computers. Psychology Press. 2014.
Klein, Naomi. “How Big Tech Plans to Profit from the Pandemic.” The Guardian, 13 May 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/may/13/naomi-klein-how-big-tech-plans-to-profit-from-coronavirus-pandemic.
Kölling, Angela. Interview with Cia Rinne, 18 Dec. 2017.
Metzinger, Thomas. “Unterwegs zu einem neuen Menschenbild.” Gehirn&Geist, vol. 11, 2005, pp. 50-54, https://www.spektrum.de/magazin/unterwegs-zu-einem-neuen-menschenbild/836879.
Moorkens, Joss. 2017. “Under Pressure: Translation in Time of Austerity.” Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 464-77. DOI: 10.1080/0907676X.2017.1285331
Olsson, Tobias, et al. “At Risk of Exclusion? Degrees of ICT Access and Literacy among Senior Citizens.” Information, Communication and Society, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 55-72.
Precht, Richard David. Wer bin ich—und wenn ja wieviele?: Eine philosophische Reise. Goldmann, 2007.
—. Who am I?: And If So, How Many?: A Philosophical Journey. Translated by Shelley Frisch, Spielgel & Grau, 2011.
Rinne, Cia. archives zaroum, http://www.afsnitp.dk/galleri/archiveszaroum/archiveszaroum.html.
—. “sounds for soloists.” YouTube, 28 Oct. 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2NaLpiHOzU.
Rosen, Larry. iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Swingle, Mari K. i-Minds: How Cell Phones, Computers, Gaming, and Social Media Are Changing Our Brains, Our Behaviour, and the Evolution of Our Species. New Society Publishers, 2016.
Image 1: Rinne during her keynote at the 2015 NORLIT conference, Gothenburg, photograph, A. Kölling
Image 2: “ON”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Editions le clou das le fer, 2011, C. Rinne, photograph, A. Kölling
Image 3: “together”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Editions le clou das le fer, 2011, C. Rinne, photograph, A. Kölling
Image 4, 5, & 6: “Das Erhabene”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Editions le clou das le fer, 2011, C. Rinne, partials, full page photographs & mirror image, A. Kölling
Image 7: “Beauty” 1993, Olafur Eliasson, Moderna Museet, Stockholm 2015, photograph Anders SuneBerg https://olafureliasson.net/archive/artwork/WEK101824/beauty
Image 8: “Den blinde passager”, Olafur Eliasson, Modern Tate 2019, review and photograph P.Nguyen, 19.07.2019, https://arrestedmotion.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/1_DSC07928_P.Nguyen.jpg
Image 9: “Beauty” 1993, Olafur Eliasson, Modern Tate 2019, photograph A. Kölling.
Image 10, 11, 12: the letter i seee, Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn (A3 Drucke, Braille-Prints, turn all books (in your shelf inside out) piece und carthothèque I, courtesy of Cia Rinne.
Image 13: White Energy, Galleri Kant, Kopenhagen 2015 (A3-Drucke), courtesy of Cia Rinne.
Image 14: “voll”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Editions le clou das le fer, 2011, Cia Rinne, photograph A. Kölling
Image 15: “le dernier cri”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Editions le clou das le fer, 2011, Cia Rinne, photograph A. Kölling
Image 16: Cia Rinne, portrait, courtesy of Cia Rinne
Image 17: Angela Kölling, portrait, courtesy of the author
Würden Sie den Wechsel eines Gedichtes zwischen den verschiedenen Modalitäten Mündlichkeit, Schriftlichkeit und animierter Schrift als eine Übersetzung bezeichnen? / Ja, das kann man schon Übersetzung nennen. Einige Stücke in den archives zaroum habe ich mir taktil, körperhaft vorgestellt. Ich dachte mir ein Schild, das man drehen kann und auf dessen zwei Seiten ON und NO zu lesen ist. Das heißt, die Realisierung als Drehbewegung hatte ich mir von Anfang an vorgestellt. Allerdings nicht digital, sondern als Ausstellungsobjekt, doch der Effekt ist ähnlich: Durch die Drehung des Wortes ON ist es manchmal auch als NO lesbar, wodurch der graphemische Zusammenhang beider Wörter veranschaulicht wird. Auf der Buchseite kann dieser nicht so verdeutlicht werden, da die Wörter nacheinander und einzeln geschrieben stehen. Dort habe ich daher Zeichnungen verwendet. Auch das Verhältnis der Verse „TO GET HER“ und „(together)“ funktioniert digital besser als im Buch. Die mediale Übersetzung ist hier also eine Zusammensetzung, eine ‚Neu-Konfiguration‘. Dies ist auch der Fall, wenn verschiedene pieces zu einem neuen zusammengesetzt werden, wie bei den pieces „ENOUGH“, „rien / à / voir / dans / le / noir“ und „DIFFERENCE / ici“ aus zaroum und ihrer Neu-Konfiguration in den archives zaroum. Ich glaube, diese Prozesse weisen viele verschiedene Ebenen auf und das alles ist eine Form der Übersetzung, von einem Medium ins andere. In Ausstellungen meiner Werke werden ebenfalls Texte in andere Kontexte übertragen bzw. übersetzt und dabei wird etwas real. Daher nenne ich die Gedichte in einer spezifischen Ausstellungsform auch realisation pieces.↲
„[D]ie Hirnforschung selbst [bietet] nichts an, was […] einen funktionierenden ethischen Grundkonsens für den Alltag liefern könnte. Wir dürfen deshalb angesichts der Erkenntnisse der modernen Hirnforschung das Sein nicht mit dem Sollen vermischen und müssen zwei Fragen sorgfältig auseinanderhalten: Wie ist der Mensch in Wirklichkeit? Und wie sollte der Mensch in der Zukunft sein?“ (Metzinger 54) Translator’s note: any text touching on questions of Sein is difficult to translate and in the German context, there are always echos of Heidegger, Kant, and others. What I found particularly annoying in a linguistic/stylistic sense is that Metzinger unbalances the philosophical to be/ought to be seesaw, by “realising” these concepts in the “corresponding” questions with the terms Wirklichkeit (reality) and Zukunft (future). This implies that reality is on a different temporal-ontological plane than the future. Reality is now and the now is real, whereas the future is then and then is unreal, or worse, fake? In order to illustrate that the word choices, and in particular the choosing of words that are seemingly common, have consequences, translation needs to be done unreadably, has to be rendered unsmooth. And in doing so, the translator also realises the importance of the work of Cia Rinne and artists of her kind and caliber.↲
Translation programs have, of course, addressed the topic of machine translation for some time and continuously need to consider and adapt to the epistemological, economic, social and causal space-time environment it forms. As Anthony Pym (2012) has pointed out, the fundamental basis for ethically informed agency is to have causal powers, that is, for example, to be in a position to reject to translate a text. These causal powers are dependent on broader societal awareness and solidarity, which is why events showcasing public translation, such as awards, book fairs and roundtables, are so important, and why translators should consider their chances to form public relations as part of their training.↲
Oh, practically? I just take a word or a concept or just a saying by someone, maybe a quote or something, and it then starts developing usually and then I, well, I never write long at this it is just from this idea that then I spin a little bit and try to transform that can develop into something and I usually just take a philosophical construct and then reduce it that’s how I started off because the whole study of philosophy and the whole ideas and theories were too large so I just made an image of them trying to understand them better. The text is more like an image of a thought or an image of a word. In that sense it is a very condensed picture. And then it turns it all around and within translation meaning can then turn into its opposite and contain its own opposite. In a way I’m not writing about but in a way just showing it. In that way, … form doing it and very playful. … the word play that it still is. It’s also not taking language too seriously. […] what I like about this reductive way of showing things, it’s not like long text and then reduced. It´s nothing like that. It´s just a very, very minimal form which is then opened to more in itself.↲
We might start with doing away with the term intersemiotic translation for starters. It leads to the false impression that translation is monomodal, which fails to acknowledge typesetting, punctuation, and so on as modes of sound not reducible to the lexic.↲