Anagramatic ABC



Translation intersects, in our view, with two other fields where its potential is amplified: education and cross-cultural analysis. With regard to education, it is important to avoid a form of translation that merely transcodes one language onto another in linear or literal fashion. It is essential to accompany translations with notes on the particular social and cultural contexts that allow a language to be understood. This might help bridge the gap created by the very logic of elitist or expert knowledge which bars underprivileged subjects from access to certain languages or codes. Cross-cultural analysis is implicated in this process too. Given the unviability of literal translations, cross-cultural transcoding requires a re-interpretation of the ‘original’ texts within the logic of the context into which they are rendered. This means opening spaces for other forms of thinking, speaking and being. As Hito Steyerl explains in her essay “The Language of Things”: “If Benjamin’s concept of translation could tell us one thing, it is that translation is still deeply political, if we literally put it to practice. Only that we need to shift our attention from its content to its form. We need to shift the focus from the languages of belonging, to the language of practice. We should stop expecting it to tell us about essence, when it about transformation that it speaks to us instead. And we need to remember that the practice of translation only makes sense, if it leads to much needed alternative forms of connection, communication, and relations- and not to new ways of renovating culture and nation”.

Genealogies of practice

  • Reassemblage  Trinh T. Minh-ha , 1982
    Combining a postcolonial approach with a cinematic reflection on the narrative positions of culturally-embedded subjects, Min-ha's "Reassemblage" had a huge impact on experimental ethnography in the early 1980s. Women are the focus but not the object of this influential film, a complex visual study of rural Senegal. The film is a montage of fleeting images and includes almost no narration, as Min-ha intended "not to speak about/Just speak near by," decentring her own position as speaking subject in relation to the images presented to the viewers. "Reassemblage" reflects on documentary filmmaking itself and the ethnographic representation of cultures. Min-ha’s method emerges through disjunctive editing, distilling sounds, silences, repetitions, vistas of Senegalese villagers and their surroundings, and abrupt jumps-cuts from wide shots to extreme close-ups, in order to reveal the cultural functions of cinematic discourses.


  • ¿Puede hablar el sujeto subalterno? / Can the Subaltern Speak? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak 1988,

  • El lenguaje de las cosas / The language of things Hito Steyerl , EIPCP multilingual webjournal, 2006

  • Speaking Nearby: A Conversation with Trinh T. Minh-ha. Nancy N. Chen , Visual Anthropology Review. Vol 8 No 1, 1992

  • La tarea del traductor / The Task of the Translator Walter Benjamin 1923,

  • The Politics of Translation. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, en: Outside in the teaching ma, New York: Routledge, 1993

  • Reading Seminars. Rainer Ganahl (Austria, 1961) ,
    Organizing group readings and discussions is an integral part of Ganahl’s art practice, which involves a series of ongoing projects with different books, chosen for specific contexts. Texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg or contemporary authors may provide the basis for shared reflections on translation and cross-cultural exchange. The books, the places, the people change but the method is always the same: communal readings and discussions.

  • On Translation: Miedo/Jauf.  Antoni Muntadas (Barcelona 1942), 2007,
    Part of the On Translation project, initiated in 1995, which comprises more than thirty works. Miedo/Jauf explores the complex transcodings of fear on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar. Through interviews, context and archive footage, quotes, press headlines and excerpts form films, Muntadas “creates a metaphor of situations in which translation, interpretation, what is left unsaid and silence all form a part of the narrative.”