Janice y.l. leung

Within a System (of Translation) - Janice Y.L. LEUNG

This project mainly concerns the idea of translation and performative writing. It is a set of four books.

On Translation:
Translation is a process to create. There is no equivalence between the initial and the translated texts. People with different backgrounds will translate a text differently. Translators are in fact authors.

This project was developed in 2003 when the US Government was in a high profile hunting down Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, who was also considered as the major initiator of the 911 incident. A sentence was taken from the website of CNN, the major news network in the US, on which an “almost certainly” bin Laden’s tape was claimed to have translated into English. The sentence, which has no explicit political or religious overtones, was chosen for this work for further translation, so as to facilitate the creativity involved in the process of translation.

I asked three people to translate the sentence into Chinese. Not surprisingly, the translated texts were very different from one another: one of the translators added on meanings, another one transformed the report into a hymn-like poem… suggesting possible impact based on the translators’ own educational, career and religious backgrounds. This round of translation also made explicit the potential differences between the CNN English translation and the original Arabic text. Translucent Papers were used to make this work, so that a number of adjacent pages showing a few different translations of the same sentence can be made visible for simultaneous reading.

On performative writing:
The original meaning of a word is not always traceable. Language can be treated as a system with infinite possibilities. Writing can be regarded as an open process for one to create.

The act of writing rather than content is emphasized in this project. A set of four books was generated by continuous and extended translation and re-translation of one single sentence. Terms in the work are highlighted, rearranged, substituted (by synonyms found in the thesaurus), and further mechanically translated (by a digital software), so as to challenge the foundational and fixed meanings in words. The process of translation can go on and on and beyond this set of four books.

The books’ covers also echo this infinite proliferation of translation by adopting the Copernican Solar System diagram (modified from the one drawn by Thomas Digges) based on the associations I make between this project and the solar system, as both of them are finite systems within which infinite possibilities of spatialization can be potentially constructed.

For its process-orientedness and open-endedness, this work interestingly addresses several issues of this exhibition and the new media despite its non-digital (print) form. Digital media provides not only a platform for creative interventions, but the serial and algorithmic thinking new media embody go beyond digitality and inspire us to re-examine the so-called old, non-digital media.




此作品在三年前完成。那時候,美國政府正高調地緝捕那被視為 911 事件幕後主腦的阿爾蓋達組織領袖拉登。美國新聞網絡 CNN翻譯了被認為是拉登的錄音聲帶,再把英語譯文存放於網上。我選取了一個並沒有明顯的政治及宗教含義的句子,把它放進作品裡作為起步,以彰顯翻譯活動的創意。

我請來了三位朋友把那句英語譯本再翻譯成中文。亦是預期之內的結果,三個中文譯本甚為迴異:有譯者在譯本裡加插額外內容,亦有譯者把原來報導式的文字改寫成像聖詩般的詩篇… 全都關係於譯者本身的教育、工作和宗教背景。此一翻譯動作亦暗示了 CNN的英語譯文與「拉登」的阿拉伯語原文之間所可能存有的偏差。我亦特地選用了牛油紙為作品的用紙,以其半透明的特性同時展示出譯文之間的差異。


作品所關注的是寫作的行為而並非其內容。一套四本的翻譯冊是經過不斷翻譯一個句子的過程所伸延開來。字詞在那裡給強調、配置、(以同義詞) 替換、(以數碼軟件) 進一步翻譯,從而挑戰文字的既定意義。我們可以永無止境地一直翻譯下去,遠遠超越那四本翻譯冊。

透過對哥白尼的太陽系圖 (the Copernican Solar System) 的挪用,四本翻譯冊的封面也對翻譯活動的無限可能作出了回應。那是基於我對作品與太陽系之間的聯想:兩者都是有限的系統,而內裡的空間卻包裹著無窮盡的組合可能。



Janice Y.L. LEUNG recently completed her MA in Critical Methodologies at King’s College, London. Janice graduated from the City University of Hong Kong, with a BA in Creative Media in 2004. She was one of the participating artists and Catalog Editor for the “Writing Machine Collective” 1st edition (2004). Owing to her educational background, Janice is interested in exploring the openness of language by bridging cultural and critical theories, interactive content creation and digital new media.

梁燕蕾剛於倫敦大學取得批判理論碩士學位,2004年畢業於香港城市大學創意媒體學院獲學士學位。曾參與文字機器創作集第一輯展覽 (2004) 及其場刊編輯的工作。研究興趣包括在文化研究、批判理論、創作實踐和新媒體之間探討語言的開放性。