Chinese Whispers: using online translation services

Clare Qualmann reports on artworks using online translations to play a game of Chinese whispers:

I have been working with Emily on a series of artworks that take the form of games of inter-lingual Chinese whispers. I am interested in exploring how processes of translation shift meaning, lose their way, create new versions of texts, and generate nonsense along the way. One version of this is an experiment using online translation services to create multiple versions of a text – google translate and babelfish respectively, moving from language to language to see how meaning shifts (and is lost)

The starting point text, a quote from Montaigne about rumour, is first translated from English to Afrikaans, then from Afrikaans back into English, then from English to Albanian, and from Albanian back to English, and so on, moving alphabetically through the 72 languages that google can work with, and the 14 languages of babelfish (as babelfish does not order them alphabetically – I have followed the order in which they do offer them).

The resulting texts are visualised in these animated sequences, that show the transformation (in fits and starts) between sense and nonsense.

The full content of the texts can be read below:

dungeon of love, Berlin

Our friend and colleague Dominique Brancher went away from our symposium armed with a set of Dominic Hills’s prints of the Dungeon of Love, to fly-post them around Berlin.

Here we see the Dungeon on display outside the Trinkteufel, a punk bar in Kreuzberg, one of the trendiest districts in Berlin.



And here on a road sign at the intersection of Adalberstrasse and Naunynstrasse (also in Kreuzberg). Another fly-poster has put up the word ‘easy’, as if it were easy to break into (or out of?) the Dungeon.Berlin




And finally at a club on the banks of the Spree, the river which goes across Berlin, Club der Visionäre (The Club of the Visionaries), Treptow. 

BerlinDominic Hills takes inspiration from old French naughtiness, Japanese print-making and revolutionary art from the May ’68 student rebellion in Paris. Japanese print-making also catered for working-class culture, including advertising, while the May ’68 revolutionary posters produced by art students turned Paris into a gallery for strange and rebellious images.

Fly-posting the Dungeon in Berlin is in the same incongruous, rebellious, democratic, immediate, surreal , intrusive, and fun spirit.