ETN holds its first Symposium

by Madeleine Campbell, 9 July 2021

Our network for meaning-making across languages and the arts launched on 17 June by holding a digital one-day Symposium for members to meet and greet, exchange ideas and plans and discuss the network’s aspirations for the next 18 months. Educational and community projects, outputs and impact were very much on the agenda, and we also found time to end a jam-packed day with a creative workshop.

The first part of the Symposium was devoted to scholars and artists presenting their thoughts and work-in-progress for experiential translation initiatives ranging from projects involving poetry and art-making in schools to a somatic exploration of self and other in a local park with adult members of the community. Notions of dialogic aesthetics and linguistic in-competence rubbed virtual shoulders with debates regarding the pre- or post-literate semiotic affordances of asemic versus iconic signs and sounds. The pedagogic potential of working with home languages through the visual translations of idioms, of producing aural experiential translations of the pandemic, textual translations of works of art, as well as re-translations, were presented at various stages of preparation, implementation or analysis, aiming at different levels in education from primary schools to secondary and higher education, as well as educators themselves. Possible curatorial themes emerged, not surprisingly perhaps in relation to covid, around isolation, immunity and resilience.

Dictionativity is led by Ella Zou, Ines de Castro Correia and Francesca Mirabile. Check out their website and how to contribute to their project here: Dictionativity

The guest presentation of an interactive, multimodal and multilingual dictionary project Dictionactivity developed by students at King’s College London generated much interest from participants.

Despite missing the serendipity over coffee-breaks we might have enjoyed in bricks and mortar venues in our partners’ home turf in Milan, Budapest or Salamanca, many opportunities for learning from each other and cross-collaboration arose spontaneously, with exchanges of contact details, resources or artists’ pages facilitated by the chat function on the ubiquitous Zoom platform.

The second part of the Symposium was devoted to discussing a range of seminars, publication and exhibition plans, as well as identifying project-level impact indicators suitable for each member project’s unique characteristics. This led us to plan a few smaller-scale events before the next Symposium (to be held in Dec 2021), in order to tackle more specific tasks, explore key issues including arts, translation and language policy, and to trial novel experiential translation workshop ideas.  

It was fitting to round off with a songwriting workshop inspired by ‘listening to the whispers of everyday objects’, hosted from Sweden by guest Lucy Cathcart-Frödén, which gave us the opportunity to compose multilingual lyrics she then put to music – this assemblage, which sparked a heated discussion around the syntactic and gender implications of translating the involuntary neologism  bianconere (created thanks to sloppy handwriting of biancaneve “Snowhite”) as a masculine/feminine plural transcreation, can be heard here.

Notes for our “Object Whispers” workshop

Without wishing to give too much away at this early stage in the network’s development, the wealth of artistic and academic talent brought together from all over Europe with partners from as far as Hong Kong on this first Symposium generated tremendous enthusiasm, and several members will soon be posting blogs to describe their current initiatives in more detail. Interested readers are invited to watch this space!


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