Processes of Change: Translation, Metamorphosis, and Conversion
Guest Co-Editors: Lisa Andersen and Joan Boychuk
Introduction: Processes of Change
Clean Air, Clear Water: Vapourization and the Anonymous Corpse in Teresa Margolles’ Plancha
This essay explores how the vapourization of water creates a disarming phenomenological, emotional, and political environment for gallery visitors engaging with Teresa Margolles’ installation Plancha. Filling the gallery’s atmosphere with water sourced from a morgue in Mexico City – where it was used to clean the bodies of the dead after autopsy – Margolles’ use of vapourized water complicates the boundaries of the spectatorial body by stimulating fears of contamination and decay. I argue that through extremely limited visual means, Margolles’ installation evokes the presence of the anonymous dead and considers the transnational implications of cycles of violence and subjugation. By considering Plancha though its various sensorial manifestations – the smell of the air, the sight of the water, tangible traces, and the presence of the corpse – I theorize the use of vapourized water and (implied) bodily traces as a politicized and phenomenologically complex strategy of artistic production.
Poussin’s Echo of Ovid
In 1630 Nicolas Poussin paints The Empire of Flora, a canvas celebrating the scorned lovers of Ovid’s tales. In this particular work, the portraits of Narcissus and Echo suggest a relationship between the two that is more telling than the third book of Metamorphoses. Holding the water-filled vase in which Narcissus sees his reflection, Echo becomes the vessel through which the boy’s fate is realized. As such, she is nothing less than the physical presence of his unconscious and the harbinger of his desire. From Poussin’s telling pose to essays by Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Žižek, and Kaja Silverman, this essay uncovers the significance of Ovid’s dejected nymph in Narcissus’s encounter with self-knowledge.
The Labours of Translation: Towards Utopia in Bruegel’s Tower of Babel
“The Labours of Translation: Towards Utopia in Bruegel’s Tower of Babel” looks at how the re-authoring of a story, a type of translation, can be seen as challenging the original’s authority by taking on the form of utopian social critique. Bruegel’s 1563 Tower of Babel painting reinterprets the biblical story in a way that pays tribute to the industriousness and craft of the people of sixteenth-century Antwerp, while at the same time ridiculing a tyrannical sovereign. The painting in many ways mirrors Thomas More’s Utopia, which was published a half century earlier in the very same city. By utilizing motifs of self-directed labour and industrial craft, Bruegel illustrates the anticipatory potential of a society. The notion of translation is examined, in a time when translations of all kinds were increasingly challenging existing beliefs, and in a way that could have acted as a kind of cultural pedagogy to spark the idea of a better world and to impart the cognitive skills necessary to think through epochal change.
Love Between the Original and its Shadow
by Jeff O’Brien
As noted by Gayatri Spivak, the erotic act of translation entails and demands that the translator give in to the text—the originary text enforces, dominates and demands that the translator listen—but listen to exactly what? Through acknowledging a difference between that of speaking and that of listening, the translator ought to find a liminal space in between both for it is here that meaning is situated at the sites of rhetoric. One finds rhetoric in the gaps between language, not only within the singular language to be translated but also within the languages of the original and translated work. Meaning, agency, and the affect of a work are not to be found within the singular work-qua-work; rather, they are a series of constructed signs that function to disrupt the logical systematicity of the straight language itself. This essay looks at the possibility of aligning Spivak’s notion of translation with her formulation of the trace in her preface to Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology, albeit with an elliptical conceit given the conceptualization of translation as developed here.
The Spatialization of Image Politics: The Nazi Party Grounds in Nuremberg
This paper explores the relation between spatial design and image taking as co-dependent practices of power affirmation. It focuses on the role of crowds as a tool of political legitimation in the context of the Luitpoldarena, a park on the outskirts of the city of Nuremberg, in Germany. By comparing the design of the park under two distinct political regimes, the national-socialist state and the democracy of today, this paper suggests that image-making is the determining factor in the landscape and architectural planning of this area.