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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Lost in Translation?

    Translation is the act of interpreting or adapting from one language to another. But one has to wonder, does part of the meaning or message get lost in the process of translation? Acts of Translation, an art exhibit in the Student Activities Center Art Gallery focused on this concept. Carla Macchiavello, the curator of Acts of Translation, asks ‘Does legibility require translation? And if so is there a proper translation?’

    Six Chilean artists, Francisca Aninat, Carmen Ariztia, Felipe Baeza, Joaquin Cocina, Paula Dittborn, Francisco Schwember, are featured in the Acts of Translation exhibit. The artists explored the numerous meanings of translation. According to Macchiavello, ‘these artists reflect on translation as a shifting movement with a diversity of boundaries, geographical and cultural, conceptual, material and historical.’

    When I saw Cocina’s Lost Case #8, done in charcoal and metallic pencil, the first detail I noticed was the absence of color. It is a portrait of a professionally dressed man looking to his right. He appears expressionless. The silver background makes the character seem cold and calculating. But at the same time, I had to ask myself, was silver used purposefully to summon such a response? Am I seeing something that isn’t present, or not seeing something that is present?

    In another piece by Cocina, called Lost Case #7, there is a portrait of a woman in a similar pose as the man in Lost Case #8. But her background is bright red. Red commonly signifies passion, fire, warning for danger and love, all things that are also usually associated with women. Could this have been Cocina’s motif or motive?

    An artist’s use of media is also important in determining what his or her motive is. Fuente’s Eduardo is a digital animation piece from multiple simultaneous photographs, an innovative choice of media. Aninat’s Black Painting #4 utilizes prepared fabric, acrylic, newspaper and thread. There’s extensive use of shades of gray and black, which stereotypically refer to darkness and negativity. Although the newspaper is a means of getting information across, it is always biased. News providers always supply the view with which they are in accord. This ‘translation’ is fated to be skewed.

    An interpretation or translation may not always come across quite the way the artist wanted either. A Stony Brook student, Rachel P., commented on Black Painting #4 asking ‘What is this person trying to say? It doesn’t appear original.’ Perhaps this confusion or criticism can be accepted as success because the artist achieved his or her goal of proving that accessibility is a major concern when it comes to translation.

    The title to an artwork also says a lot about the piece, the artist, and what the artist was thinking or feeling. Dittborn’s Es Un Amor Sin Ma’ntilde;ana, which means ‘a love without tomorrow,’ is an example. As interesting as Dittborn’s title is, so is his choice of media: plasticine on wood. Homenaje a Catalu’ntilde;a by Schwember also needed to be translated. It means ‘Homage to Catalonia,’ which is a part of the kingdom of Spain.

    Finally, the background behind a piece of artwork helps decipher the artists’ intentions. Are there any historical or other types of references? Ariztia’s Cup evoked the same stereotypical ideas about the color red and its relations to women as Cocina’s Lost Case #7. This artwork consists of a cup, off-white in color, and a pearl earring. The earrings are very feminine. The pearl and the white cup can be associated with purity, which is also associated with women. This is ironic because women are also seen as the corrupter of man.

    At first glance, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to enjoy the exhibit. But I feel like I have explored the idea of translation. I suppose if my assumptions are all incorrect, I have just helped corroborate the artists’ point that sadly, some things will inevitably be lost in translation.

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