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programthematic project series

concept : artists

Personal Translations, Lounge

a.titolo suggested instead of a video the audio work Esigiamo by Laura Pugno, 2.40 min, 2007
A commentary by Luisa Perlo/a.titolo

Created by the artist Laura Pugno, Esigiamo (We Demand) is a project that examines the notion of comprehension and of the responsibilities involved in the process of translation. An excerpt from the Declaration of Women in Struggle signed in Rome at the 2nd International Meeting of Mujeres en Lucha on 25 October 2007, was translated into the main languages spoken by the 18 signatories. The translations were made in succession, one after the other, in the order in which the document had been signed: Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, Portuguese, and English. Imperfect right from the source text in Italian, which was itself the result of an initial negotiation beset by problems, the process entailed a prevalence of colonial languages. There was, however, the intermediation of a hegemonic one, English, forming a bridge between languages at a far remove one from the other. Launched on this migratory expedition, the words moved from one language to another before coming back to the one they started in, now radically transformed. The disappearance of the source text and of the precise references on which the construction of meaning is to be based, makes a paradox of the state of in-betweeness, which is an inherent aspect of translation, and full access to the underlying discourse is thus impaired. The decision to entrust the German translations to two different translators was designed to introduce a further break of meaning at this point: virtually a continuation of the project. “What does translating mean?”, wonders Umberto Eco in the introduction to his Dire quasi la stessa cosa (Bompiani, 2003), “The first, heartening answer would be: ‘saying the same thing in another language’. If it were not for the fact that, to start of with, we have considerable difficulty in establishing what ‘saying the same thing’ means, and we cannot be sure about all those operations we refer to as paraphrase, definition, explanation, and reformulation, to say nothing of supposedly synonymic substitutions. Secondly because, when faced with a text to be translated, we do not know what the thing actually is. And lastly, in some cases we may even have doubts about what saying means.” As part of a shared platform, Esigiamo appears as a metaphor of intercultural relations – the misunderstanding is emphasised in the audio recording which superimposes the two versions. And yet, “it is the ‘inter’ – the cutting edge of translation and negotiation”, writes Homi Bhaba (The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994), “the in-between space – that carries the burden of the meaning of culture”.

The project was created in collaboration with Villa 5, the multidisciplinary residency programme for women’s art in the women’s section of the former psychiatric hospital of Collegno, near Turin, where it was part of the Approdi festival in 2007. One year later, at the same location, Esigiamo became the starting point for a seminar with the artist, directed by Anna Nadotti, literary critic and translator (of works by Amitav Gosh, Anita Desai, Vikram Chandra).
The signatories of the Declaration came from Western Sahara, Algeria, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Palestine, Somalia, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Brazil, Iraq, Israel, Argentina, Bolivia, Argentina, and Italy, in that order.

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