Found in Translation
The Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim
After "Anish Kapoor: Memory" and "Julie Mehretu: Grey Area", the third show in the "Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim" goes up at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. "Found in Translation" presents eleven film and video works that explore the interaction between different cultures.
||The Voyager 1 has been journeying through space since 1977. On board, among other things, is the Golden Record. It carries data including 116 photographs depicting a variety of motifs from the Golden Gate Bridge to a man taking a walk with a dog—a collection of pictures designed to portray human civilization to extraterrestrials. The Golden Record has inspired Steve McQueen to create his work Once Upon a Time (2002). The British artist digitized the material and added a new soundtrack to it—in place of greetings in 55 languages, the audio track now consists of people "speaking in tongues". The sounds are word-like, yet meaningless, rendering the images from the 1970s oddly unreal. The viewer of Once Upon a Time undergoes a peculiar experience: the incomprehensible language of the soundtrack seems as alien as the images and sounds on the Golden Record might to an extraterrestrial.
The video projection of the Turner Prizewinner is one of eleven film works on show in the exhibition Found in Translation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It is the third exhibition in the Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim presenting commissioned works created for Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, as well as thematic shows for the Berlin and New York Guggenheim Museums. Found in Translation brings together films, videos, and slide installations by eleven international artists who explore the interrelated themes of translation and cultural difference. The show, which will be on view at the Deutsche Guggenheim in early 2012, was conceived by Nat Trotman.
"Found in Translation was initially developed out of a group of media works in the Guggenheim's collection, all of which look to language as a means of exploring history and culture," explains Trotman, Associate Curator at the Guggenheim Museum. "As I researched the themes binding these pieces together, I realized that language could serve as an entry point into larger discussions of identity as it is performed in and through the medium of video. By focusing on works made in the last ten years by artists of a relatively recent generation, I hope that Found in Translation will offer a glimpse into ways that contemporary artists use language to approach the issue of cultural difference." For the artists shown, translations open up a discursive field in which various different factors determining our identity—for instance class, race, religion, sexuality—are negotiated, giving rise to new meaning. What at first seems like a simple linguistic task is transformed into a kind of controlled experiment that sheds light on the interaction between different cultures.
The works of Patty Chang, Keren Cytter, and Lisa Oppenheim were inspired by literary texts. While Oppenheim’s dual projection Cathay (2010) juxtaposes Ezra Pound's version of an old Chinese poem with a linguist’s literal translation, Patty Chang’s The Product Love (2009) is based on a text written by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin in 1928 on his encounter with the Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong. Keren Cytter, who also takes part in Globe, the art & performance program, that celebrates the new art installment in the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt, shows Les Ruisellements du Diable (2008). The video is based on a short story by Julio Cortázar, which provided the material for Antonioni’s legendary film Blow up. The protagonist in Cytter’s video is a translator, whom the artist uses to exemplify the complex investigation into questions of identity and perception.
On the other hand, Paul Chan, Sharon Hayes, and Sharif Waked address clearly political themes. In To Be Continued... (2009), the Palestinian artist explores the phenomenon of the Islamic suicide bomber. The effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11 form the backdrop for Paul Chan’s Untitled Video on Lynne Stewart and Her Conviction, the Law, and Poetry. In his video, Chan draws a portrait of Lynne Stewart, the lawyer representing one of the main defendants accused in the first attack on the World Trade Center. Stewart was sentenced to ten years in prison because, according to the court’s verdict, she passed on a note from her client and in doing so endangered national security.
For her slide projection In the Near Future (2009), Sharon Hayes, who is represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection, has set herself in scene as an activist in cities like New York and Warsaw. Her game with outdated agitprop slogans is more, however, than a mere reference to historical political movements. In the Near Future points to the critical potential of performance to address our role in the current political discourses—whether it be as an onlooker or an activist.
The Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim: Found in Translation
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
February 11 – May 1, 2011