Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.VT.11.3.9 | PDF

Mul­ti­modal Tasks for Trans­la­tors Kölling/Rinne

Multimodal Tasks for Translators:
A Translational Dialogue with Cia Rinne and Her Work

Angela Kölling
Cia Rinne


in Gothen­burg in June 2015 at the NORLIT “The Future of the Book” con­fer­ence host­ed at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Gothen­burg in Swe­den, where she pre­sent­ed her work dur­ing the keynote of the con­fer­ence. The mul­ti­lin­gual, mul­ti­modal qual­i­ty of her work attracts the inter­est of oth­er artists as well as schol­ars in lit­er­ary, lin­guis­tic, and fine arts fields. After read­ing the avail­able schol­ar­ly arti­cles, announce­ments, pro­grams, and con­duct­ing an inter­view with her, I want­ed to offer a dia­logue, Sprach-Spiele through ver­bal and oth­er modes, set between the issues addressed in the con­tri­bu­tions to this spe­cial issue of Imag­i­na­tions and Rinne’s mul­ti­modal work. How does the chore­og­ra­phy of let­ters she per­forms on the page and else­where nuance the

Fig. 1

mean­ing of a word and what does that mean for print­ed text trans­la­tions? Do trans-modal or mul­ti-modal trans-lations—by way of read­ing, lay­out, type-set­ting, or dig­i­tal technology—accumulate into one mul­ti-lay­ered per­ceived mean­ing or do they pro­duce dif­fer­ent mean­ings through dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions? Can we all hear and see the same thing at the same time?

To pre­pare the game: Instead of pre­sent­ing the artist Cia Rinne here in the form of a con­ven­tion­al inter­view, this con­tri­bu­tion wants to stage a play­ground for thoughts and respons­es to her art­work and the top­ic of trans­la­tion. Draw­ing on pri­ma­ry sources, con­ver­sa­tions between the author, oth­er schol­ars and the poet, and the themes of this spe­cial issue, I attempt to show fur­ther pos­si­bil­i­ties for engag­ing, or spie­len (play­ing), the con­nec­tions between | trans­la­tion and visibility—and beyond.

zaroum, notes for soloistes & l’usage du mot 
are three projects that include min­i­mal­ist texts which explore pho­net­ic sim­i­lar­i­ties and shifts. The works for this “Dia­logue” are cho­sen most­ly from these projects. Their start­ing point is most often an idea, a ques­tion, or quo­ta­tion. Through visu­al (zaroum), son­ic, rhyth­mic and melod­ic inter­pre­ta­tion on page (notes for soloistes, l’usage du mot) and in her per­for­mances, Rinne expos­es pos­si­ble nuanc­ing of mean­ing in a poly­glot (main­ly but not restrict­ed to Ger­man, Eng­lish and French) envi­ron­ment. The fol­low­ing Spiel invites you to look, click—in the order of your liking—and com/paire.


* 1 | one | ohne | oh no | ono | on | o. | (oh no) | | (Last played 15.08.2018)

Mov­ing from piece to piece in SPIEL ONE a move­ment of lan­guage becomes apparent—not just in the mov­ing around of letters—the word “on” is mor­phed into a copy with­out orig­i­nal, per­haps a copy that rids itself of(f) its original.
…we are caught up with the lan­guage and then you have to ques­tion it. A lit­tle bit. To refresh it or to make clear that the way we use it might or is maybe uncon­scious. So that is what I am inter­est­ed in, not lan­guage itself, not the mere instru­ment, but to ques­tion the way we use and take it for grant­ed. And then you can play a bit of course. But it has a bit more of a philo­soph­i­cal back­ground than mere lan­guage game of word play.
Kölling/Rinne 2018, Transkript
Dri­ven by the explo­ration of the uncon­scious uses of lan­guage, Rinne’s “con­crete poet­ry” is a par­tic­u­lar form of translation—to shift mean­ings and “imag­ine” a way out of the sys­tem of lan­guage that we oth­er­wise can­not step out of. Per­haps it is also informed by a dis­trust in lan­guage, or the tak­ing for grant­ed of meaning.
When you write there’s just the mean­ing and the visu­al­i­ty and once you start read­ing them aloud you have this third com­po­nent. Oral­i­ty, which only becomes appar­ent when you read. And some­times you read and they change and some­times the speed may change or then they even get some sort of musicality.
Kölling/Rinne 2018, Transkript

SPIEL 2: Thought (Seeing ↔ Listening)

Cia Rinne “Sounds for Soloists” – on Youtube: (Last played 4.08.2020)

Each per­for­mance, then, is a unique orches­tra­tion of breath, pos­ture, rhythm, room, audi­ence. It can­not be repeat­ed in exact­ly the same way. Does this mean in mul­ti­modal texts there is no orig­i­nal arrestable mean­ing, only the mean­ing of a trans­la­tion into mean­ing rel­e­vant to the recep­tor, read­er, view­er, lis­ten­er all at once? Does this affect the per­cep­tion (dis/trust) in translation—and how do we know?
The text is more like an image of a thought or an image of a word. In that sense it is a very con­densed pic­ture. And then it turns it all around and with­in trans­la­tion, mean­ing can shift and turn into its own and even con­tain its own oppo­site. In a way, I am not describ­ing, but instead show­ing this.
Kölling/Rinne 2018, Transkript


Fig. 3

Would you describe the changes that occur between dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties of a poem, oral­i­ty, print and ani­mat­ed print as a translation?

Yes, that could be called trans­la­tion. Some of the pieces in the archives zaroum I imag­ined as tac­tile objects, bod­i­ly. I had a sign in mind that could be flipped over and which on one side said ON, and on the oth­er side said NO. So I imag­ined a real­i­sa­tion in form of a revolv­ing move­ment right from the start. Cer­tain­ly not in dig­i­tal form, rather as an instal­la­tion, but the effect is sim­i­lar: through the rota­tions the word ON is some­times also read­able as NO, which illus­trates the graphemic con­nec­tion of both words. In a book, this can­not be shown so clear­ly because the words are print­ed one after the oth­er and sep­a­rate from each oth­er onto the page. This is why I used draw­ings in those cas­es. Like­wise, the inter­re­la­tion between the vers­es “TO GET HER” and “(togeth­er)” also work bet­ter in dig­i­tal form than in the book. The trans­la­tion into a dif­fer­ent modal­i­ty in this case is a com­po­si­tion, or a “neo-con­fig­u­ra­tion. This is also the case, when dif­fer­ent pieces are set togeth­er to make new piece, as, for exam­ple, for “Enough”, “rien / à / voir / dans / le / noir” and “DIFFERENCE / ici” from zaroum and their neo-con­fig­u­ra­tion in the archives zaroum. I believe these process­es reveal many dif­fer­ent lay­ers, which is alto­geth­er a form of trans­la­tion, from medi­um to medi­um. Exhi­bi­tions, which show my pieces, also trans­fer and trans­late text into oth­er con­texts, and in the process some­thing becomes real. I there­fore call poems that are dis­played in a par­tic­u­lar form dur­ing an exhi­bi­tion “real­i­sa­tion pieces”. (Ben­thien and Vor­rath 4-5, trans­la­tion mine)1

The trans­la­tion between thought and lan­guage is not lim­it­ed to mov­ing between lin­guis­tic sys­tems in Rinne’s work. Rather one encoun­ters a sym­phon­ic orches­tra­tion of thought, sens­es, and lan­guage. The ques­tion is, of course, whether such an orches­tra­tion is only a mat­ter of the­o­ret­i­cal or aes­thet­ic per­spec­tive or whether this needs to be con­sid­ered for “nor­mal,” every­day use®s of lan­guage. Cur­rent neu­ro­log­i­cal research on how “i-media” (Swingle) influ­ences our cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment, social skills, and over­all com­mu­ni­ca­tion pat­terns sup­ports the lat­ter. The Amer­i­can psy­chother­a­pist and researcher Mari K. Swingle, for exam­ple, com­pares “i-speak,” in this case tex­ting or txt, with com­mu­ni­ca­tion prac­tices in mul­ti­lin­gual envi­ron­ments, such as sub-con­ver­sa­tions and lan­guage layering:

the way one choos­es to alter a word or phrase through pseu­do or new “spellings,” as well as emphat­ic emo­tive, and oth­er­wise mean­ing con­vey­ing for­mat­ting, indeed can cre­ate sub­tle but very dis­tinct dif­fer­ences. With tex­ting, one can very effi­cient­ly selec­tive­ly make mean­ing deep­er, more pre­cise, and yes, exclu­sive. Which brings me to a sec­ond fea­ture, the sub-con­ver­sa­tion. Again, pri­or to i-tech, this was a fea­ture exclu­sive to mul­ti­lin­gual indi­vid­u­als. Poly­glots, ful­ly know­ing what lan­guages peo­ple do or do not speak, switch lan­guages accord­ing­ly. (183)

The pat­tern Swingle iden­ti­fies for mixed-media com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that “com­mon con­ver­sa­tion,” which involves every­one at the din­ner table, so to speak, is “usu­al­ly ver­bal,” while “sub-con­ver­sa­tion,” which is selec­tive, is usu­al­ly “tech­no­log­i­cal­ly medi­at­ed.” In her assess­ment, such sub-con­ver­sa­tion or “switch­ing” by txt or oth­er i-media can, “if not mali­cious,” be enrich­ing and, “with i-tech and dig­i­tal natives” at least, has become a “reg­u­lar prac­tice” (183).

Swingle fur­ther points out that old­er “dig­i­tal immi­grants,” like myself, “miss the pos­i­tive poten­tial of screen tech­nol­o­gy” (183). Not in the sense that we might miss the prac­ti­cal, ped­a­gog­i­cal uses, but rather in the sense that some ideas can be trans­lat­ed bet­ter into dig­i­tal form, and that cer­tain dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion, which becomes avail­able by way of eth­i­cal data min­ing, might improve our under­stand­ing of and poli­cies for con­tem­po­rary society.

Some of Rinne’s ideas, such as “turn on” and “to get her,” work bet­ter as pieces trans­lat­ed into dig­i­tal form than pieces trans­lat­ed into print form. Anoth­er way of look­ing at this is by way of Sil­via Pireddu’s analy­sis of cat­a­logue trans­la­tion in this spe­cial issue of Imag­i­na­tions. I believe that her assess­ment that a “fail­ure to nego­ti­ate and adapt trans­la­tion to such mul­ti­ple polar­i­ties” (that come into play when ver­bal and visu­al infor­ma­tion exist in a shared space) “may lead to vary­ing degrees of inter­pre­tive break­down on the part of the end-user” is not only applic­a­ble to trans­la­tion as a prod­uct but also as a dis­ci­pline. If the old­er “dig­i­tal immi­grants” do not par­take, in oth­er words, fail to nego­ti­ate and adapt their view of trans­la­tion to i-tech, this may lead to vary­ing degrees of inter­pre­tive break­down on the part of the end-user, that is between old­er and younger gen­er­a­tions of trans­la­tors, between teach­ers (and schol­ars) and stu­dents enrolled in trans­la­tion stud­ies programs.

Dig­i­tal mul­ti­me­dia writ­ing (and trans­la­tion) oper­ates from an entire­ly dif­fer­ent neu­ro­log­i­cal plat­form: one that mines the lat­est neu­ro­log­i­cal find­ings about colour pref­er­ences, ori­en­ta­tions in for­eign envi­ron­ments, and psy­cho­log­i­cal pre­dis­po­si­tions, as well as per­son­al data to pro­duce irre­sistible prod­ucts for their “read­ers.” In oth­er words, dig­i­tal writ­ing oper­ates in a val­ue sys­tem that encour­ages the exploita­tion of humans and empha­sizes prof­it mak­ing with­out clear­ly defined eth­i­cal bound­aries. Thomas Met­zinger describes this as the entrance to an era which rede­fines the con­cept “humans”:

Neu­ro-psy­cho­log­i­cal research itself offers noth­ing that […] could lead to a prac­ti­ca­ble eth­ic and ground­ed con­sen­sus for every­day life. There­fore, and because we must not con­fuse “das Sein”, that which is, with “Sollen”, that which ought to be; we need to con­front the find­ings of mod­ern brain research keep­ing two mat­ters care­ful­ly apart: How is the human in real­i­ty? And how should the human be in the future? (54, trans­la­tion mine)2

As I write this arti­cle, the EU’s new rule for gen­er­al infor­ma­tion pro­tec­tion is set into place. The Ger­man doc­u­men­tary film, Democ­ra­cy – Im Rausch der Dat­en (2015), reveals the com­plex­i­ty of both the polit­i­cal process and of legal­ly fram­ing pub­lic and com­mer­cial usage of per­son­al infor­ma­tion. The film shows an excerpt of a round­table debate dur­ing which one speak­er makes a com­pelling argu­ment for per­son­al data mining:

We worked with the Atlanta Pub­lic Schools and deter­mined that the best indi­ca­tor of grad­u­a­tion from high school was not whether your par­ents were rich, not whether you had inter­net at home but it was whether you took cre­ative writ­ing in the ninth grade.” (19:57)

As I revise this arti­cle, the world is try­ing to fig­ure out how to be post-Covid-19. In an arti­cle, enti­tled “How Big Tech Plans to Prof­it from the Pan­dem­ic,” Nao­mi Klein dis­cuss­es how IT com­pa­nies seize this world-wide cri­sis to extend their reach and pow­er in the form of a “Screen New Deal” (Klein). The arti­cle fea­tures the “new virus-per­son­alised pitch,” sum­marised by Anu­ja Son­alk­er, the CEO of Steer Tech, “a Mary­land-based com­pa­ny sell­ing self-park­ing tech­nol­o­gy”: “Humans,” says Son­alk­er, “are bio­haz­ards, machines are not” (Klein). As usu­al, IT tries to main­tain the invis­i­bil­i­ty-prin­ci­ple of its pro­duc­tion process­es, that is, end-users are not meant to see who ser­vices the machines and how. What are the neu­ro-psy­cho­log­i­cal, the socio-polit­i­cal, and the envi­ron­men­tal costs?

Schol­ar­ly pro­grams that do not address these ques­tions leave the next gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents and trans­la­tors to become com­plic­it in the pro­duc­tion of what sev­er­al philoso­phers (Precht; Met­zinger), neu­rother­a­pists, behav­iourists, and psy­chother­a­pists (Green­field; Rosen; Swingle), as well as media and com­mu­ni­ca­tions experts (Ols­son et al.) now refer to as risk-technology.

From this dif­fer­ence in read­ing and writ­ing arrives also a prob­lem of inter­pre­ta­tion or com­mu­ni­ca­tion between old­er “dig­i­tal immi­grants” and younger “dig­i­tal natives.” While we may assume that the old­er gen­er­a­tion draws on a reli­gious­ly informed or intu­itive­ly holis­tic under­stand­ing of human beings, dig­i­tal immi­grants might actu­al­ly lack this wider nor­ma­tive frame of ref­er­ence. The grow­ing pri­va­ti­za­tion of the lan­guage indus­try, that is, the struc­tur­al trend towards self-employed free­lancers fol­low­ing the eco­nom­ic down­turn since 2009, is leav­ing this gen­er­a­tion vul­ner­a­ble to eco­nom­ic exploita­tion that has begun to trans­form their under­stand­ing of soci­ety and of them­selves (Moorkens). We might still wor­ry whether machine-aid­ed trans­la­tion is advanc­ing or destroy­ing trans­la­tion, which implies that machine and human trans­la­tion com­pete with each oth­er. Mean­while, dig­i­tal trans­la­tion is absorb­ing the trans­la­tor, min­ing their exper­tise (through spe­cial­ly designed pro­grams) and con­fus­ing ideas about who they real­ly are with ideas about how they ought to pro­duce.3

SPIEL 4 (in) 3 - Part A: REFLECTIONS

Fig. 4

When you say you reduce and reduce and reduce, how do I have to imag­ine this process practically?
There is usu­al­ly a word, sen­tence or quote in the begin­ning that I start devel­op­ing until it trans­forms into some­thing else that in the best case hides an ele­ment of sur­prise, a short of mean­ing, or even a para­dox. While study­ing phi­los­o­phy, I used to reduce larg­er the­o­ret­i­cal con­structs into con­densed forms that in a way made them a lit­tle bit eas­i­er to under­stand, but also became some­thing else. So, it is a process of reduc­tion, but also of a sort of decon­struc­tion of lan­guage itself, tak­ing it apart, ques­tion­ing it, and then reassem­bling it again int into a min­i­mal­ist form that in itself is open to more.
Kölling/Rinne 2018, Tran­skript, trans­la­tion Rinne4

Rinne describes her work as a way of “try­ing to get as far away as pos­si­ble from writ­ing,” through which she then shows “that which is hid­den in the lan­guage” (Kölling/Rinne 2018, Tran­skript). The con­trib­u­tors to this spe­cial edi­tion have all tak­en their point of reflec­tion from a form that is oth­er to translation—a cov­er, a poster, a web­site, a cat­a­logue, an exhi­bi­tion, an idea, a news­pa­per arti­cle, a book of poetry—to show that which is hid­den in trans­la­tion. They out­line cur­rent devel­op­ments in mixed-mode trans­la­tion and how this might affect the user. What is more, they address the grow­ing polar­iza­tions between ver­bal trans­la­tion and i-tech in the form of a pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tion: not tak­ing one side or the oth­er, but try­ing to form a view which turns ideas togeth­er. Such a view begins to acknowl­edge that there is a grow­ing read­er­ship for whom read­ing is more than fol­low­ing lines of let­ters on the page, deci­pher­ing the words and assign­ing a dic­tio­nary mean­ing to them. “Dig­i­tal natives” are all-at-once read­ers: images, let­ters, sounds, etc.—and they are capa­ble of pro­duc­ing trans­la­tions in this mixed-mode. And it is impor­tant to under­stand how they real­ly do it in order to have an informed dis­cus­sion about whether they should do it. To con­tin­ue to take for grant­ed that trans­la­tion is pri­mar­i­ly a ver­bal mode might not only lead to grow­ing break-downs of inter­pre­ta­tion between dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of trans­la­tors, it might also mean that those who do not par­take in this dig­i­tal shift will not be part of shap­ing its norms.5

The diver­si­ty of your projects—both with regard to lan­guage and media you use—seems to increase inter­est from schol­ars of trans­la­tion like myself. Do you con­sid­er your­self a trans­la­tor of sorts?
Not, not real­ly. Not in - Oh! I can hear the echo.
Oh!? Is it bad?
No, it’s fine. It’s fine. Just cause… It’s okay now. I have to admit that in the reg­u­lar sense I have been trans­lat­ing but I don’t con­sid­er myself a trans­la­tor between lan­guages. But more in the sorts of between thought and lan­guage maybe. In a sense you can say that, or that I am inter­est­ed in the untrans­lata­bil­i­ty of the lan­guage, or how it depends on which lan­guage you use actu­al­ly. How you can express your­self. So, you can­not step out of lan­guage in that sense or of the con­struct of thought because we are caught up in the sys­tem of the lan­guage that we have acquired. So, the clos­est you can get to imag­in­ing an alter­na­tive way dif­fer­ent­ly is maybe in a dif­fer­ent lan­guage. So, in that sense I am inter­est­ed in trans­la­tion. But not trans­lat­ing as such. I use lan­guages that are con­nect­ed in a sense like French and Eng­lish for exam­ple that are very close where the mean­ing shifts although the sound is very sim­i­lar. That sort of dif­fer­ance if you like. (Kölling/Rinne 2018, Transkript)

SPIEL (in) 3 PART B: What would there be if there was not me?

Fig. 5

One detail that Rinne shared with me in my inter­view with her sur­prised me: her self-descrip­tion of being a lone­ly work­er, where­as my first impres­sion was that her pieces (archives zaroum, sounds for soloists) were most­ly col­lab­o­ra­tive in nature—or a shared expe­ri­ence at least. For me, her projects seemed co-oper­a­tive, indebt­ed to con­crete poet­ry as much as new advance­ments in dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy. This cross-pol­li­na­tion of con­crete poet­ry with dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy has led me to explore the rela­tion­ship between ana­logue and dig­i­tal modes of trans­la­tion deep­er than I anticipated.

SPIELPART 3: THE FULL PICTURE: MATERIE (The Idea of a Concrete Translator)

Writ­ing on the page is a sin­gu­lar task: one puts a pen to paper. In the­o­ry, it could be entire­ly pos­si­ble that a writer has pro­duced all of the nec­es­sary tools—paper, ink, and feather—for this enter­prise. Typ­ing, how­ev­er, makes it more like­ly that one needs to draw on the skills of oth­ers for the pro­duc­tion of a type­writer, car­bon paper, and ink rib­bon. Nowa­days, it seems near impos­si­ble that a sin­gle per­son has built the entire materie, the machine, pro­grammed the soft­ware, and so on from which writ­ing is made.

Fig. 6

Writ­ing has become a much more com­mu­nal pro­duc­tion process and it might become entire­ly out­mod­ed for “dig­i­tal natives” to view writ­ing still as an indi­vid­ual task. What, for exam­ple, is my posi­tion in the pro­duc­tion process of this writ­ing? Just a dot in the dig­i­tal space? I am acute­ly aware of the nec­es­sary materie that I alone can­not pro­duce nor bring to life. I am not a lone­ly work­er at all.

Rinne’s pieces estab­lish rela­tions, with her audi­ence and through coop­er­a­tion, by way of link­ing dif­fer­ent lan­guages and modes. I want to use the idea of these rela­tions and entan­gle­ments as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reimag­ine translation—to break with the image of the trans­la­tor as a lone­ly work­er, as well as that of trans­la­tion as a prod­uct of indi­vid­ual consumption.



Materie. Pro­duc­tion, con­sump­tion. Vis­i­bil­i­ty & Trans­la­tion. Each of the con­trib­u­tors to this issue argues and shows with the mate­r­i­al they present and exam­ine that trans­la­tions and their vis­i­bil­i­ty is a social task, name­ly that of imag­in­ing and reimag­in­ing a plan­et pop­u­lat­ed with diverse com­mu­ni­ties, human and other.

Rinne sent me four pho­tographs tak­en from “the let­ter i see” exhi­bi­tion at the Kumu Art Muse­um in Tallinn, which exhibits A3 braille-prints. Two of the pho­tographs show peo­ple look­ing at her works, the oth­er two just show her works in the emp­ty exhi­bi­tion space. These images plant­ed a seed, a visu­al jux­ta­po­si­tion and metaphor, which grew to full thought dur­ing a vis­it to anoth­er exhi­bi­tion in London.

On 8 Novem­ber 2019, a friend invit­ed me to see Ola­fur Eliasson’s “In Real Life” exhi­bi­tion at the Tate Mod­ern in Lon­don. It is a pecu­liar expe­ri­ence. Elias­son con­structs nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na, often focussing on process­es, such as rain run­ning down a win­dow pane or ice melt­ing, where­by he draws atten­tion to the socio-aes­thet­ic con­struct­ed­ness of “nature.”

Did we come here to get wet?” a man asks me while I am enter­ing Eliasson’s “Beau­ty” (1993) instal­la­tion. It star­tles me. One is rarely spo­ken to at exhi­bi­tions, let alone by strangers. Nor­mal­ly, the art space is a space of qui­et visu­al consumption.

Beau­ty” is a cur­tain of mist illu­mi­nat­ed by spot­lights which re-cre­ate the spec­tral phe­nom­e­non of a rain­bow (FIGURE 7). When I enter the black­ened room, I first expe­ri­ence sur­prise. The humid air set­tles on my skin, I feel cold, my eyes adjust to the dark rather slow­ly. I reg­is­ter the rain­bow at the same time that the man speaks to me. I look at him. He smiles at me and I smile back. A ques­tion, a con­nec­tion. I look back at the rain­bow, try­ing to fig­ure out what we are here for.

Fig. 7

The answer, my answer to the stranger’s ques­tion, comes to me as I spend per­haps twen­ty min­utes observ­ing the space. The beau­ty of this instal­la­tion lies not in the rain­bow itself. It lies in how vis­i­tors inter­act with it. The vis­i­tors do get wet: they posi­tion them­selves with­in the rain­bow to have their pho­tographs tak­en by their spouse or friend or anoth­er fam­i­ly member.

Their expres­sions are full of joy as they do so. It is joy­ous to wit­ness this. For a moment, I feel dis­ap­point­ed because I can­not par­tic­i­pate. I have no excuse to step into the rain­bow and break the bar­ri­er between observ­er and being observed because I am alone here. And I pre­fer the role of spec­ta­tor. I feel uncom­fort­able becom­ing part of this spec­ta­cle, being looked at.

Beau­ty” invokes a sense of togeth­er­ness which becomes even more promi­nent as I enter the “Din blinde pas­sager” (“Your blind pas­sen­ger,” 2010) instal­la­tion. “Din blinde pas­sager” is a 39-meter-long cor­ri­dor full of dense fog, which cuts vis­i­bil­i­ty down to a claus­tro­pho­bic arm’s length (FIGURE 8). It is hard to breathe and move. My eyes, which can­not fix on any­thing to find ori­en­ta­tion in the fog, switch into some kind of over­drive. They search and search and search the fog. This coin­cides with short­short­short intakes of breath. The phys­i­cal response to the expe­ri­ence is dra­ma­tized by the effect of oth­er blind pas­sen­gers appear­ing (relief) and dis­ap­pear­ing (dis­com­fort) in the fog. Judg­ing by their ges­tures, their expe­ri­ences are sim­i­lar to my own.

Fig. 8

I could have left this detour through Elisasson’s exhi­bi­tion out of this arti­cle. Per­haps you find it dis­tract­ing as you read this. But to me it is a punc­tu­al note of the pro­duc­tion process. The pho­tographs show­ing “Beau­ty” and “Din blinde pas­sager” that I includ­ed here are tak­en from Elisasson’s web­site and the web­site of an online review­er of his exhi­bi­tion in the Lon­don Tate Mod­ern in 2019. The images are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of how his works have been cap­tured for archival and pro­mo­tion­al pur­pos­es, as well as for the encour­age­ment of aca­d­e­m­ic and emo­tive dis­course (for a more detailed dis­cus­sion of visu­al­i­ty and trans­la­tion in the con­text of visu­al art and exhi­bi­tions see the con­tri­bu­tions of Ingram, Per­ry, and Pired­du to this issue). This is a pho­to­graph I took while vis­it­ing the exhibition:

Fig. 9

There are sev­er­al points of con­nec­tion between Eliasson’s and Rinne’s work. Both are forms of trans­la­tion which man­age in a Brecht­ian sense to make strange norms of see­ing and visu­al mean­ing-mak­ing. In Eliasson’s instal­la­tions, the roles of nature (which is con­struct­ed) and nat­ur­al (how vis­i­tors are phys­i­cal­ly affect­ed by the instal­la­tion) are invert­ed, just as the role of see­ing let­ters and read­ing by touch are invert­ed in Rinne’s exhi­bi­tion of braille prints.

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

This inver­sion is not based on the assump­tion that vis­i­tors gift­ed with sight can­not read braille but on the infor­ma­tion in the images that Rinne sent me: the vis­i­tors view the prints with their hands in their pock­ets with light­bulbs placed above the prints for bet­ter visibility.

Both Elias­son and Rinne thus employ the art space to invite the vis­i­tor to a meta-dia­logue about con­struct­ed oth­ers and/or else­wheres. The norm becomes strange. Vis­i­bil­i­ty becomes strange. The first two pho­tographs draw atten­tion to the vis­i­tors view­ing the art­work, empha­sized by the light­bulbs which are need­ed to see (and thus also empha­siz­ing the conun­drum staged by the artwork).

Fig. 12

Fig. 13

The lat­ter two images, because they are “emp­ty”, white and with­out peo­ple, empha­size the point of view from which the pho­tographs are tak­en, mean­ing, the fact that the image focus­es my view on re-enact­ing/repli­cat­ing the sole spec­ta­tor con­sump­tion behav­iour, and thus excludes the pos­si­bil­i­ty of becoming/perceiving myself as a par­tic­i­pant in a com­mu­nal and sol­idary act.

This is my con­clu­sion, then:

Fig. 14

The art of trans­la­tion is not the fin­ished prod­uct, but the way in which we inter­act with it and share our inter­ac­tion with oth­ers, and through the inver­sion of pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion by adding our thoughts, ideas, ques­tions and reac­tions, leer becomes voll.

I would like to thank the edi­tors and review­ers for their thought­ful com­ments and efforts towards improv­ing this con­tri­bu­tion, Cia Rinne for her time and thought-inspir­ing art­work, and Patrick Spot­tis­woode for the tick­et to Ola­fur Eliasson’s exhi­bi­tion at the Tate Modern.

Fig. 15

Fig. 16

Fig. 17


Works Cited

Ben­thien, Clau­dia, and Wiebke Vor­rath. “Cia Rinne im Gespräch mit Clau­dia Ben­thien und Wiebke Vor­rath.” Über­set­zen und Rah­men. Prak­tiken medi­aler Trans­for­ma­tio­nen, edit­ed by Ben­thien und Gabriele Klein, Fink, 2017, pp. 149-62.

Democracy–Im Rausch der Dat­en. Direct­ed by David Ber­net, Indi Film, 2015, http://​www​.democ​ra​cy​-film​.de. Accessed 04 August 2020.

Green­field, Patri­cia Marks. Mind and Media: The Effects of Tele­vi­sion, Video Games, and Com­put­ers. Psy­chol­o­gy Press. 2014.

Klein, Nao­mi. “How Big Tech Plans to Prof­it from the Pan­dem­ic.” The Guardian, 13 May 2020, https://​www​.the​guardian​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​2​0​2​0​/​m​a​y​/​1​3​/​n​a​o​m​i​-​k​l​e​i​n​-​h​o​w​-​b​i​g​-​t​e​c​h​-​p​l​a​n​s​-​t​o​-​p​r​o​f​i​t​-​f​r​o​m​-​c​o​r​o​n​a​v​i​r​u​s​-​p​a​n​d​e​mic.

Kölling, Angela. Inter­view with Cia Rinne, 18 Dec. 2017.

Met­zinger, Thomas. “Unter­wegs zu einem neuen Men­schen­bild.” Gehirn&Geist, vol. 11, 2005, pp. 50-54, https://​www​.spek​trum​.de/​m​a​g​a​z​i​n​/​u​n​t​e​r​w​e​g​s​-​z​u​-​e​i​n​e​m​-​n​e​u​e​n​-​m​e​n​s​c​h​e​n​b​i​l​d​/​8​3​6​879.

Moorkens, Joss. 2017. “Under Pres­sure: Trans­la­tion in Time of Aus­ter­i­ty.” Per­spec­tives: Stud­ies in Trans­la­tol­ogy, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 464-77. DOI: 10.1080/0907676X.2017.1285331

Ols­son, Tobias, et al. “At Risk of Exclu­sion? Degrees of ICT Access and Lit­er­a­cy among Senior Cit­i­zens.” Infor­ma­tion, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Soci­ety, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 55-72.

Precht, Richard David. Wer bin ich—und wenn ja wieviele?: Eine philosophis­che Reise. Gold­mann, 2007.

—. Who am I?: And If So, How Many?: A Philo­soph­i­cal Jour­ney. Trans­lat­ed by Shel­ley Frisch, Spiel­gel & Grau, 2011.

Rinne, Cia. archives zaroum, http://​www​.afs​nitp​.dk/​g​a​l​l​e​r​i​/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​s​z​a​r​o​u​m​/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​s​z​a​r​o​u​m​.​h​tml.

—. “sounds for soloists.” YouTube, 28 Oct. 2011, https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​y​2​N​a​L​p​i​H​OzU.

Rosen, Lar­ry. iDis­or­der: Under­stand­ing Our Obses­sion with Tech­nol­o­gy and Over­com­ing Its Hold on Us. Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2012.

Swingle, Mari K. i-Minds: How Cell Phones, Com­put­ers, Gam­ing, and Social Media Are Chang­ing Our Brains, Our Behav­iour, and the Evo­lu­tion of Our Species. New Soci­ety Pub­lish­ers, 2016.

Image Notes

Image 1: Rinne dur­ing her keynote at the 2015 NORLIT con­fer­ence, Gothen­burg, pho­to­graph, A. Kölling

Image 2: “ON”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Edi­tions le clou das le fer, 2011, C. Rinne, pho­to­graph, A. Kölling

Image 3: “togeth­er”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Edi­tions le clou das le fer, 2011, C. Rinne, pho­to­graph, A. Kölling

Image 4, 5, & 6: “Das Erhabene”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Edi­tions le clou das le fer, 2011, C. Rinne, par­tials, full page pho­tographs & mir­ror image, A. Kölling

Image 7: “Beau­ty” 1993, Ola­fur Elias­son, Mod­er­na Museet, Stock­holm 2015, pho­to­graph Anders SuneBerg https://​ola​fure​lias​son​.net/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​/​a​r​t​w​o​r​k​/​W​E​K​1​0​1​8​2​4​/​b​e​a​uty

Image 8: “Den blinde pas­sager”, Ola­fur Elias­son, Mod­ern Tate 2019, review and pho­to­graph P.Nguyen, 19.07.2019, https://​arrest​ed​mo​tion​.com/​w​p​-​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​/​u​p​l​o​a​d​s​/​2​0​1​9​/​0​7​/​1​_​D​S​C​0​7​9​2​8​_​P​.​N​g​u​y​e​n​.​jpg

Image 9: “Beau­ty” 1993, Ola­fur Elias­son, Mod­ern Tate 2019, pho­to­graph A. Kölling.

Image 10, 11, 12: the let­ter i seee, Kumu Art Muse­um, Tallinn (A3 Drucke, Braille-Prints, turn all books (in your shelf inside out) piece und carthothèque I, cour­tesy of Cia Rinne.

Image 13: White Ener­gy, Gal­leri Kant, Kopen­hagen 2015 (A3-Drucke), cour­tesy of Cia Rinne.

Image 14: “voll”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Edi­tions le clou das le fer, 2011, Cia Rinne, pho­to­graph A. Kölling

Image 15: “le dernier cri”, zaroum: notes pour soloistes, Edi­tions le clou das le fer, 2011, Cia Rinne, pho­to­graph A. Kölling

Image 16: Cia Rinne, por­trait, cour­tesy of Cia Rinne

Image 17: Angela Kölling, por­trait, cour­tesy of the author

Share your thoughts:


  1. Wür­den Sie den Wech­sel eines Gedicht­es zwis­chen den ver­schiede­nen Modal­itäten Mündlichkeit, Schriftlichkeit und ani­miert­er Schrift als eine Über­set­zung beze­ich­nen? / Ja, das kann man schon Über­set­zung nen­nen. Einige Stücke in den archives zaroum habe ich mir tak­til, kör­per­haft vorgestellt. Ich dachte mir ein Schild, das man drehen kann und auf dessen zwei Seit­en ON und NO zu lesen ist. Das heißt, die Real­isierung als Drehbe­we­gung hat­te ich mir von Anfang an vorgestellt. Allerd­ings nicht dig­i­tal, son­dern als Ausstel­lung­sob­jekt, doch der Effekt ist ähn­lich: Durch die Drehung des Wortes ON ist es manch­mal auch als NO les­bar, wodurch der graphemis­che Zusam­men­hang bei­der Wörter ver­an­schaulicht wird. Auf der Buch­seite kann dieser nicht so verdeut­licht wer­den, da die Wörter nacheinan­der und einzeln geschrieben ste­hen. Dort habe ich daher Zeich­nun­gen ver­wen­det. Auch das Ver­hält­nis der Verse „TO GET HER“ und „(togeth­er)“ funk­tion­iert dig­i­tal bess­er als im Buch. Die medi­ale Über­set­zung ist hier also eine Zusam­menset­zung, eine ‚Neu-Kon­fig­u­ra­tion‘. Dies ist auch der Fall, wenn ver­schiedene pieces zu einem neuen zusam­menge­set­zt wer­den, wie bei den pieces „ENOUGH“, „rien / à / voir / dans / le / noir“ und „DIFFERENCE / ici“ aus zaroum und ihrer Neu-Kon­fig­u­ra­tion in den archives zaroum. Ich glaube, diese Prozesse weisen viele ver­schiedene Ebe­nen auf und das alles ist eine Form der Über­set­zung, von einem Medi­um ins andere. In Ausstel­lun­gen mein­er Werke wer­den eben­falls Texte in andere Kon­texte über­tra­gen bzw. über­set­zt und dabei wird etwas real. Daher nenne ich die Gedichte in ein­er spez­i­fis­chen Ausstel­lungs­form auch real­i­sa­tion pieces.

  2. [D]ie Hirn­forschung selb­st [bietet] nichts an, was […] einen funk­tion­ieren­den ethis­chen Grund­kon­sens für den All­t­ag liefern kön­nte. Wir dür­fen deshalb angesichts der Erken­nt­nisse der mod­er­nen Hirn­forschung das Sein nicht mit dem Sollen ver­mis­chen und müssen zwei Fra­gen sorgfältig auseinan­der­hal­ten: Wie ist der Men­sch in Wirk­lichkeit? Und wie sollte der Men­sch in der Zukun­ft sein?“ (Met­zinger 54) Translator’s note: any text touch­ing on ques­tions of Sein is dif­fi­cult to trans­late and in the Ger­man con­text, there are always echos of Hei­deg­ger, Kant, and oth­ers. What I found par­tic­u­lar­ly annoy­ing in a linguistic/stylistic sense is that Met­zinger unbal­ances the philo­soph­i­cal to be/ought to be see­saw, by “real­is­ing” these con­cepts in the “cor­re­spond­ing” ques­tions with the terms Wirk­lichkeit (real­i­ty) and Zukun­ft (future). This implies that real­i­ty is on a dif­fer­ent tem­po­ral-onto­log­i­cal plane than the future. Real­i­ty is now and the now is real, where­as the future is then and then is unre­al, or worse, fake? In order to illus­trate that the word choic­es, and in par­tic­u­lar the choos­ing of words that are seem­ing­ly com­mon, have con­se­quences, trans­la­tion needs to be done unread­ably, has to be ren­dered unsmooth. And in doing so, the trans­la­tor also realis­es the impor­tance of the work of Cia Rinne and artists of her kind and cal­iber.

  3. Trans­la­tion pro­grams have, of course, addressed the top­ic of machine trans­la­tion for some time and con­tin­u­ous­ly need to con­sid­er and adapt to the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, social and causal space-time envi­ron­ment it forms. As Antho­ny Pym (2012) has point­ed out, the fun­da­men­tal basis for eth­i­cal­ly informed agency is to have causal pow­ers, that is, for exam­ple, to be in a posi­tion to reject to trans­late a text. These causal pow­ers are depen­dent on broad­er soci­etal aware­ness and sol­i­dar­i­ty, which is why events show­cas­ing pub­lic trans­la­tion, such as awards, book fairs and round­ta­bles, are so impor­tant, and why trans­la­tors should con­sid­er their chances to form pub­lic rela­tions as part of their train­ing.

  4. Oh, prac­ti­cal­ly? I just take a word or a con­cept or just a say­ing by some­one, maybe a quote or some­thing, and it then starts devel­op­ing usu­al­ly and then I, well, I nev­er write long at this it is just from this idea that then I spin a lit­tle bit and try to trans­form that can devel­op into some­thing and I usu­al­ly just take a philo­soph­i­cal con­struct and then reduce it that’s how I start­ed off because the whole study of phi­los­o­phy and the whole ideas and the­o­ries were too large so I just made an image of them try­ing to under­stand them bet­ter. The text is more like an image of a thought or an image of a word. In that sense it is a very con­densed pic­ture. And then it turns it all around and with­in trans­la­tion mean­ing can then turn into its oppo­site and con­tain its own oppo­site. In a way I’m not writ­ing about but in a way just show­ing it. In that way, … form doing it and very play­ful. … the word play that it still is. It’s also not tak­ing lan­guage too seri­ous­ly. […] what I like about this reduc­tive way of show­ing things, it’s not like long text and then reduced. It´s noth­ing like that. It´s just a very, very min­i­mal form which is then opened to more in itself.

  5. We might start with doing away with the term inter­semi­otic trans­la­tion for starters. It leads to the false impres­sion that trans­la­tion is monomodal, which fails to acknowl­edge type­set­ting, punc­tu­a­tion, and so on as modes of sound not reducible to the lex­ic.