2009 : 2008 : 2007 : 2006 : 2005 : 2004 : 2003 : 2002 : 2001 : 2000 : 1999 : 1998 : 1997 : 1996 : 1995 : 1994

programthematic project series

concept : artists
Christoph Keller

The Interpreters 

Interpreters always attach great importance to their professional title because they do not see themselves as translators, who have, after all, time to transfer a text from one language into another. Interpreters work simultaneously – they “interpret” the original speaker while he/she speaks and therefore have to slip into the flow of the speaker’s thinking – a word or a sentence that is said cannot be retracted; it can only be corrected through a subsequent formulation. 

How someone else’s language flows through the body of interpreters has always fascinated me and I’ve often watched them in their booths. The physical expressions demonstrated by an interpreter show that their work is a performative act, an utterance and not simply a translation. The interpreter does not speak for him-/herself; their speaking is that of the other, whom he/she is interpreting. 

The individual identity of a person, the self, usually communicates by way of thoughts, which find their voiced expression in speech. The interpreter however “lends” his/her self to someone else. To do this they have to able to turn themselves into a medium, and this is a special gift. 

The work explores this realm of a speaking self between the body and a thinking process becoming language. 

I started by conducting interviews with interpreters and then editing and compiling these interviews. What the viewer sees though are not these interviews themselves, but their simultaneous translation. In a second step I showed the compiled interviews to the same interpreters as a video and asked them for a simultaneous translation. The installation thus shows interpreters who are simultaneously translating their own performative act of speaking. 

Interpreting requires assuming the position of another person, slipping into their train of thought. To interpret the self is therefore in fact a tautological act because the other is oneself… 

In the installation I reverse the positions of interpreting once again, invert them so to say. The interpreter, who should actually be in the booth, is situated outside as a video projection, while the listener/viewer is in the booth.  

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