Algorhythms – serendipitous machine suggestions

by Ricarda Vidal

I recently gave a talk to MA and PhD students at the University of Salamanca. I gave it the title “What is Experiential Translation?” and also created a Power Point presentation. I love using Power Point’s automatic “suggest a design” function. It often comes up with the most wonderful (and arbitrary!) images to illustrate what it takes to be the contents of the slides – and it certainly didn’t disappoint on this occasion. Power Point’s suggestion for a visual interpretation of “What is Experiential Translation?” is this: a mysterious, multi-layered porthole, a gateway to another world.

The image, despite being static, encapsulates fluidity, liquidity*, the shapeshifting potential of translation, the open-ended journey on which it takes the translator, the text, the reader…

In my talk I discussed Bassnett and Johnston’s call for Translation Studies “to expand outwards, to improve communication with other disciplines, to move beyond binaries, to engage with the idea of translation as a global activity” (2019: 187). This, of course, is something we set out to do in our collaboration as a network and it is reflected in the breadth of papers that were presented at the Experiential Translation conference in London last July as well as in the artworks which were created by network members for our travelling exhibition. And as I am reading through all the wonderful abstracts that have been submitted in response to the call for papers for our new book Experiential Translation: Opacity and Porosity in a (dis)embodied Pluriverse, I am struck again by the variety of approaches and the breadth of subjects and disciplines that come together in Experiential Translation.

*Here I need to mention Javier Adrada’s wonderfully graphic description of “liquid translation” in his PhD thesis, a concept he developed on the basis of Zygmunt Bauman’s “liquid modernity” in order to support his argument that “the subject matter of Translation Studies has no limits because every text is a translation, and each text is permeated with the liquid meanings of other texts.” (Adrada de la Torre, 2022: 413)

In addition to this edited volume, we are also developing a practice-focused research output. In fact, my talk at Salamanca presented an opportunity to rehearse some of the argument and theoretical framework for an exposé to be published on the Research Catalogue. This will explore the role of translation in the creative process of making the works in the exhibition and will also be a platform to present an online version of the show. To get started, I have made a short video which will give an idea of the exhibition as a whole – or perhaps not so much an idea as an impression or a series of impressions.

The artworks appear in the order in which they were placed in the Inigo Rooms in Somerset House if one walked clockwise from one work to the next, interrupted only by other people and performances. I had initially planned for it to be silent, but then decided to include snippets from Danica Meier and Karl Katschthaler’s performances and weave these into on overarching musical backdrop which could connect the individual works without being either too intrusive, or too corporate.

And here I return to the serendipity of machine suggestions – I went to my favourite webstore for sound effects and music clips and tried out various search terms. “Experiential” only returned results for “experimental” and “translation” didn’t really get me anywhere. “Exhibition”, unsurprisingly, mainly resulted in various clips of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, but the combination of all three terms proofed to be more successful, especially when I clicked on the “other people bought…” suggestions and went down the rabbit hole of rhythmic algorithms which finally took me to Chunying Jin’s whimsical composition. I like how the music starts and stops and translates itself through repetitive variations of the initial theme. I remixed it a bit to work with the clips from Danica’s and Karl’s performances and I hope you enjoy the results.


References

Javier Adrada de la Torre, 2022, Luis Cernuda como traductor de Friedrich Hölderlin: nuevas perspectivas desde las últimas tendencias en los estudios de traducción. unpublished PhD thesis, Universidad de Salamanca.

Susan Bassnett and David Johnston, 2019, “The Outward Turn in Translation Studies”, The Translator, 25(3), pp. 181-188.

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