This issue contains:
>> Press release: The NYT to be published in Europe for the first time
>> Karin Sander´s project wordsearch
>> A conversation between Karin Sander and Hans Ulrich Obrist
>> The artist and her work
>> The Project as Magazine
>> What is "Moment"?
>> Globalization: A Dossier of Links

Between Words and Cultures:
Karin Sander's translinguistic sculpture wordsearch

An introduction by Oliver Koerner von Gustorf

After the Turkish artist Ayse Erkmen changed the cityscape of Frankfurt am Main for a limited period of time with her action Shipped Ships, Karin Sander will be realizing wordsearch, the second project in the art series Moment, initiated by the Deutsche Bank. Similar to Erkmen's project, in which three ferry boats were shipped from Japan, Italy, and Turkey to Frankfurt, where they and their native crews conducted a ferry service on the River Main, Sander's project also addresses the highly relevant problem of cultural transfer and can be read as an attempt to translate the complex relationship between a host culture and its guest cultures. But whereas Erkmen's project was prominently staged in the center of a European banking metropolis, Sander's intervention in New York makes use of a medium that reflects both the character of a global metropolis and the web of international relations that go to make up the global marketplace.

Her work of art, which she calls a "translinguistic sculpture," will be printed on October 4, 2002 in the New York Times. Wordsearch explores the hybrid surfaces of New York's linguistic landscape: on four double page spreads in the newspaper's business section, and thus in place of the daily share quotations and stock prices, words from 250 mother tongues spoken in New York are arranged into columns, each one having been donated by a native speaker living in the city and representative of the entire respective language, which has an opportunity to "get a word in" here in a literal sense. Each word, whether personally meaningful or particularly characteristic of the "donor's" culture, is in turn translated into every other language spoken in New York. The filigree web of text arising out of this and covering the pages of the newspaper may be read as a kind of dictionary – the result of a research project in linguistic anthropology. At the same time, however, it works as an abstract image: even at a short distance from the page, it resembles an information matrix difficult to comprehend and comprised of a pattern of lighter and darker grays.

The concept of wordsearch follows the idea that the American metropolis is a geographic and social center that exhibits and embodies all the values of western civilization: spirituality (in the places of worship), power (in the office buildings), money (in the banks), commodities (in the department stores), and language (in the shopping districts, the various neighborhoods, on the streets and sidewalks, and in the coffee shops and diners). If one logs into the net and follows the project's progress on the Moment homepage, a map of the city of New York divided into its five boroughs initially appears, overlaid by a pattern of markers indicating the places where Sander's wordsearchers met up with their interview partners to ask them for a word in their mother tongue.

When these markers are activated, short texts and related photographs establish contact with a whole range of different worlds – and with those moments that lie at the very heart of the project, when the word donors are about to decide on what term they wish to contribute to the project as being representative of their culture.

In contrast to the dense columns of words printed in the New York Times, these geographically arranged markers provide a more immediate link to the actual urban contexts which the words come from and which, in turn, become shaped by them.

In the material presented on the internet site, New York is documented as a multiplicity of locales that are not only permeated by the hundreds of languages spoken there, but whose surfaces are also covered by their words - in the form of billboards, graffiti, packaging, company signs, information boards, T-shirts, menus, neon signs, price tags, book pages, flyers, chalkboards, and newspapers.

For what on the one hand can be read as a "translinguistic interview" on the pages of the New York Times will, in fact, be simultaneously projected by the newspaper back into the urban space it originated from, inserting itself in every imaginable way into the latent pattern of writing covering the city's surfaces, that is, everywhere where Sander's pages are spread open. A shop front or the wall of a building sprayed with graffiti subtly contributes to the city's appearance, much as the pattern of information on the newspaper's pages corresponds to the surroundings it happens to find itself in. For a short period of time, it will be possible for a collector to acquire a work of art for 75 cents at his local newspaper stand, or for a homeless person sleeping on a park bench to cover himself with a "blanket" woven from the words of 250 languages spoken in New York.

"Vernacular language is a part of the human organism and is no less complicated," the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (4.002): "It is not humanly possible to immediately gather the logic of language from it. Language disguises thought. So much so, that it is impossible to infer the form of the underlying thought from the outward form of the clothing, because the outward form of the clothing is not designed to reveal the form of the body, but for entirely different purposes." In accomplishing the apparent paradox of making words appear as "outward forms" that do not "disguise thought," but actually clothe the "body" of a city of several million people (or one of its indigenous media), Sander transforms the city and its newspaper into a mobile, decentralized sculpture that reveals itself in constantly changing constellations and at different locations around the city.

Probably no other place in the world has as high a concentration of languages as New York, and no other city embodies so perfectly the concept of a common urban culture fashioned of human disparity. A witness to this heterogeneity, wordsearch appears on the business pages of the New York Times as a document both of a progressive cultural uprootedness and homogenization arising from the process of globalization, and of the inimitable urban connections that have grown out of this uprootedness.

As individual cultures start to disappear into the black holes of the global information and entertainment network, the painful experience of having been left behind, forgotten, or simply ignored has also left its mark on New York City's linguistic landscape - as manifested by the speech of those ethnic and social groups who have turned inwards in order to avoid disintegration or annihilation. And when on the pages of wordsearch languages appear that are no longer spoken in their countries of origin but only in exile, the question naturally arises as what exactly a "native country" is. "It is curious the way this word is used," wrote Gertrude Stein, the American living in France, "native always means people who belong somewhere else, because they once belonged to some place. This shows that the white race does not really think they belong anywhere, because they think of everybody else as native." In this sense, wordsearch presents us with the diagram of a metropolis that could at the same time serve as a diagram of the whole world.

Translation: Andrea Scrima