Concepts of (Mis)translation

10 December 2021, 3:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Hilary Thurlow, Monash University

Session Moderators

Hilary Thurlow, Monash University

Session Speakers

Sophie Rose, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
Hilary Thurlow, Monash University
Amelia Brown, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Since the acceleration of a more pervasive globalism, alongside the proliferation of the biennale; curators, critics, artists, and art historians have grappled with translating practices between geographic, linguistic and cultural barriers. These turns toward the global have implications for local communities and the translation of diasporic experiences and paths of migration both historical and present-day. There are also significant implications when artworks, histories and ideas travel across contexts and adopt an alternate, and often unintended, series of connotations. The papers presented here delve into object-based analysis of works by contemporary artists who habitually translate their practices between nation states, sites of (neo)colonialism and geopolitical upheaval. For these artists, translation has become something of a working methodology and approach to practice.

PAPER #1
Relation and translation in Anna Boghiguian’s 'The Uprooted'

PRESENTER
Sophie Rose, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

In an intellectual climate so attuned to who can and cannot speak for certain groups—with an insistence of knowing one’s place (both in the discussion and in the world)—the work of Anna Boghiguian seems somewhat heretical. For Boghiguian, each exhibition site is a case study in the global network of dispossession. Recently, she cast this critical lens upon Australia with her major installation for the Biennale of Sydney, 'The Uprooted' (2020). Within this archipelago of wooden cut-outs, the artist draws equivalences between her family’s persecution during the Armenian Genocide and the violence of colonial Australia, as retold by Indigenous artists she met during her residency at Monash University. The Uprooted models an alternative way of belonging: not one based in geographic or racial origin but one that is constantly moulded by social encounters. This paper draws heavily on the concept of Relation posited by the Martinican writer Édouard Glissant. Particularly pertinent here is Glissant’s notion of écho-monde—that is, a system of resonances between things, of ‘unities whose interdependent variances jointly piece together the interactive totality’. By translating Australia’s past to a larger tale of exile, Boghiguian finds confluences between different communities without robbing either one of its historical uniqueness.

PAPER #2
Tania Bruguera's 'Untitled (Bogotá)' (2009)

PRESENTER
Hilary Thurlow, Monash University

Prior to the global pandemic, Biennale culture and art’s internationalism had transformed artists into fly-in fly-out workers, who often adopted a peripatetic lifestyle. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera (1968-) is one such artist, who has developed her own astute schema to deal with this dilemma informed by a lucid set of ethical deliberations. This framework is explored in her controversial work, Untitled (Bogotá) (2009), executed at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Hemispheric Institute, Bogotá, Colombia. Here, Bruguera orchestrated a panel of Colombian’s embroiled in the country’s illicit drug trade, only to usurp her invited speakers by way of an illegal antagonism—serving cocaine to her Colombian comrades. Quickly condemned, Bruguera faced a barrage of criticism within Colombia and Latin American communities more broadly. This paper performs a detailed analysis of Bruguera’s Untitled (Bogotá) (2009), utilising the performance’s residual traces—Bruguera’s writings, an archive of internet commentary and existing photographic documentation. The goal here is not to make an ethical judgement on whether Untitled (Bogotá) is right or wrong but rather a case study to consider Bruguera’s role as an ‘ethical’ tourist of sorts, translating her own lexicon and politics between nation states in the context of ‘global art’.

PAPER #3
Reading between the lines: Santiago Sierra and MoMA PS1

PRESENTER
Amelia Brown, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Both prolific and provocative, Santiago Sierra (b. 1966) is notorious for producing a complex entanglement of artistic forms and socio-political realities. His reputation is one of infamy, primarily known for his performances delegating labour to those on the fringes: prostitutes, itinerant labourers, the working class, refugees. Routinely framed as amoral, it is unsurprising that censorship has become a repeated feature in his oeuvre. For Sierra, his censored projects are not ‘failures’ but rather proof of society’s obstructive forces. Language plays a foundational role in how we can understand this censorship—a pillar in the construction, maintenance, and legitimisation of power relations. Elucidating the relationship between language and power—although never named or realised—is a work Sierra proposed to MoMA PS1 in 2002. Intended as an iteration of his earlier delegated performance 'Hiring and Arrangement of 30 workers in Relation to their Skin Colour' (2002), Sierra intended for employees to be lined up by gradation of skin tone. This paper considers the schism between Sierra’s realised, earlier iteration and censored later iteration. Employing a deconstructive method, this paper will interrogate the dichotomy between language and its perceived power, intending to reveal language’s aporetic oscillation.

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Biographies

Sophie Rose, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Sophie Rose is Assistant Curator, International Art at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons I) in Art History from the University of Queensland, where her Honours thesis argued for an attention to materiality when considering conceptual, ‘de-material’ art of the late-twentieth century. Drawing from this background, she has curated exhibitions of both contemporary and historical art at QAGOMA, most notably ‘Water’ (2019-20) and ‘Revelations’ (2020-21). Outside of her curatorial work, Sophie is a regular contributor to Art Asia Pacific magazine.


Hilary Thurlow, Monash University

Hilary Thurlow is presently undertaking a Master’s in Art History at Monash University, Narrm/Melbourne. Her research centres on the Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera. In 2019, Hilary participated in the Australia Council’s Venice Biennale Professional Development Program and the Independent Curators International, Curatorial Intensive at Artspace Aotearoa, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Between 2018-2020, she Co-Directed Queensland’s longest-running Artist-Run Initiative, Boxcopy. Hilary has contributed criticism to MeMO Review, Art Asia Pacific, Eyeline and Art Monthly Australasia, among others.


Amelia Brown, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Amelia Brown is an arts worker based in Meanjin/Brisbane, Queensland. She is currently working as a Registration Assistant in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery| Gallery of Modern Art. Amelia’s holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons. I) and a Bachelor of Science in Archaeology from the University of Queensland. With an interest in structures of power, Amelia’s honours thesis examined the motifs of concealment and obstruction within Santiago Sierra’s practice. Amelia was the inaugural recipient of the University of Queensland’s Kinnane Art History Scholarship.