Saturday, May 9, 2009

Theatrical Devices / About Translation

Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, with this touch rather than with the point setting the law according to which it is to continue on its straight path to infinity, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense, thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the freedom of linguistic flux.

Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator

Thinking about my own „translation“ of Artauds theatre outline „The Conquest of Mexico“ into the media sculpture „The An-archic Device“ for the last few days, I was starting to read the notes of his contemporary Walter Benjamin on „The Task of the Translator“, an essay I was pointed to through Eusebio, who just recently discussed it in one of his collective groups, that is examining the language of things and documents. In some ways there seem for me to be analogies between Artauds proposal of the “invented being”, of “things [that] become unforeseen, corresponding to nothing”, and Benjamins notion of poetry and art:

In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a particular public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an "ideal" receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art, in the same way, posits man's physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his attentiveness. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the audience.

While Benjamin explains further, that the “essential quality” of a literary work is not “communication or the imparting of information”, but that what “lies beyond communication” (a conception that provides an interesting foil to Artauds idea of “the spirit of profound anarchy which is at the root of all poetry”), he insists that not similarity to its “original” would be the most important task of a translation, but rather to find its “mode of intention”:

The task of the translator consists in finding the particular intention toward the target language which produces in that language the echo of the original.

As life goes back to normality in Mexico-City (restaurants and public institutions opened 3 days ago), I start now to discover another aspects of its social life, and realize a big relief wherever I go. You can still feel traces of fear and hysteria, but openness, humor and musicality have found their way back into the daily life. Walking through the streets, I become quite impressed, with how much care and affection people are treating small items and construct cheap but pragmatic superstructures with a passion for the details. Mexico seems to be still in some way a religious, catholic country, as I am not only remembered from the daily ringing bells of the church opposite my flat, but also from a considerable amount of small altars in the streets or private doorways. When I arrived in Mexico and went to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, I already noticed replica of these hybrid entities, as they took a prominent part in the exhibitions of contemporary Mexican life. Right now I am starting to connect this idea of these “private devices of worshipping”, with their very theatrical settings integrating colorful paintings and photographs, sculptures of the Virgin Mary, flowers and sometimes even special lighting effects, with my planned “translation” of Artauds “The Conquest of Mexico”. As we have seen, Artaud assigned a cathartic and social function to the theatre. For him, the collision of the sacred and the profane made theatre alive. Still, there is a significant difference between religion and theatre, since the latter is not based on belief, but on the knowledge about the "theatrical pact". Therefore, the sacred is here not equivalent with dogma and the affirmation of an unity, acknowledging and establishing layers of power and submission in this way, but opens the wide space, where each subject is set back to its self in its relation to the world. Taking Artauds idea of a "Theatre of Cruelty" seriously, i became quite sure, that "The An-Archic Device" has to claim its (very theatrical) autonomy. I am looking forward to take the different parts of the installation together.

That is how we sorcerers operate. Not following a logical order, but following alogical consistencies or compatibilities. The reason is simple. It is because no one, not even God, can say in advance whether a given multiplicity will or will not cross over into another given multiplicity, or even if given heterogeneous elements will enter symbiosis, will form a consistent, or cofunctioning, multiplicity susceptible to transformation.
Deleuze & Guattari

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