Eso hacen los libros, mamá. O más bien, eso hacen los buenos libros: nos hacen escuchar diferentes voces. Nos hacen sentir (y por tanto creer) que están escritos en distintos lenguajes, en distintos órdenes de lenguaje que compiten entre ellos, incluso cuando parece, o cuando la convención o la conveniencia o los discutidos límites de las así llamadas literaturas nacionales insisten en que están escritos en uno solo.
-Kate Briggs (more precisely: her children)
Against what Kate Briggs’s children know, we are often told that a good translation does not appear to be one. A proficient translator hides all evidence of her work and erases any trace of the fact that the words that make up the translation were surreptitiously smuggled from another language, that they are somewhat out of place.
A good translation, in short, allows readers and listeners to forget.
In this sense, good translations have been tools for colonial domination from the times of Columbus, Cortés and Sahagún. Translation as forgetting allows for the words of others to be covered up, ignored, and used against them. Translation as forgetting resembles forms of commodity fetishism through which pain and exploitation are silently transformed into silver and profit.
We refuse to forget. We refuse conventional and convenient languages which hide all the other languages which coexist within them. We decided to take up a game from our childhood: a game we used to call Teléfono descompuesto, Telefone sem fio, or just Telephone, a game in which the goal is not to get messages across faithfully, but to delight and marvel in the discrepancies between what sailed off and what touched port, instead of hiding the fact of transmission and transformation. The game, however, did not work. We refused to hide that either: Mirroring the nature of a teléfono descompuesto, our schedules went through several intended and unintended edits, as two members of the group got COVID-19, making it impossible for us to keep up with the original plan.
Translation helps us define the limits and possibilities of collective action —Boaventura de Sousa Santos
After being rewritten many times in different languages, sometimes by ourselves and others by translation softwares, a paragraph becomes a cacophony where echoes from several languages resonate for those willing to listen. A series of pictures and videos reflect this experience of transformation, loss and gain that takes place in the whispering from one ear to another.
We begin with a dual narrative, drawn up by Fernando Bañuelos. The first half of it is an account of the drive (the d(é)rive) behind our project to use translation as an escape; the genealogy of a desire. The second half relates the story of a game of teléfono descompuesto which actually broke down.
This is followed by a fragmentary essay written by Bárbara Pérez Curiel. In it, she surveys different historical meanings and roles of translation and mistranslation in both imperial and anticolonial philosophies and struggles.
Jesse Hathaway Diaz continues with an exploration of the body of texts through a pocho identity: that of the Chicanos whose language is questioned as not Spanish enough or not Mexican enough. When the blood and tongue are their own borders, how do we migrate back to the self? This is a translation through the re-membering of formerly conflicted worlds that allows for new possibilities not only of language but of identity.
Cora Laszlo brings up questions concerning bodies and movement. She addresses the Klauss Vianna Technique—a Brazilian approach to contemporary dance improvisation—and the attention one must put before translating a body of work. Drawing from academic scholarship and group discussions, her text reflects on current studies regarding the Klauss Vianna Technique in Brazil and how this body of work can—and should—engage in decolonial practices. In response to her sensation during these collective experimentations on translation, and in dialogue with her practice on improvisation, Cora created the following short video, which actualizes the blur of skin and text, of close reading of words and movements.