Whose Voice? Creative Translation Framework

Empowerment and development inevitably require participation and negotiation of diverse interests and conflicting power positions.

The role of creative artists can usefully be seen as that of
an intermediary ‘creative translator advocate’
between communities and powerful institutions.

Who should speak for whom? Translation Theory and questions

Translation theory is concerned with the processes of ‘carrying over’ meanings from one ‘text’ in one form or language to another ‘text’ in another form or language. (my definition). It borrows concepts and approaches from a range of disciplines including: comparative literature, computer science, history,  linguistics,  philology,  philosophy,  semiotics, and terminology.

‘Foreignizing translation’ vs ‘abusive fidelity’? (Venuti, L. 1992)

How does one write about or represent another culture in one’s own language and terms without those very terms and conceptions altering that which is being represented? How do one’s conceptual notions color what one see and reports? (Niranjana, T. 1992)

The Western scholar/translator can partially access the subaltern condition, not through what is specifically said…but by reading that which is not said – reading the gaps, the silences, and the contradictions symptomatically…it is necessary to ‘unlearn’ in order to allow the mute [sic] to speak (Spivak, G. C. 1990))

The question becomes how to get beyond the problem of dualistic, either/or thinking, in order to explore the in-between space that includes both the same and the other…translation serves as a metaphor for writing that frees, transforms, and multiplies rather than possesses, controls and defines. (Gentzler, E. 2001, p.197 discussing work of Quebec feminist translator Nicole Brossard.)

Key translation questions for this research

  • What practical and ethical issues are involved in ‘creative visual translation’ of community voices by external actors?
  • What visual communication strategies do women and men in different communities use to represent empowerment and gender inequality? How far do the drawings speak for themselves? What needs translating, why and for whom?
  • What different visual, animation and narrative approaches used by graphic artists, animators and film-makers from different cultures could be used to help address these limitations?
  • What are the limitations of visual communication where text is needed? For whom?
  • What are the implications for a participatory protocol for creatively translating community voices for a wider global audiences?

The visual research process involves:

Reflective practice: exploring and applying visual communication theories from graphic design/info-graphic theory and wordless narratives to improve my own visual work as creative translator.

For an overview of how the research framework and ideas evolved through reflective practice see:

Bricolage research

A bricolage research approach means a very eclectic and contingent gathering of sources of inspiration:

  • Analysis of the community drawings is the primary driver as valued primary sources – and what is needed for their ‘creative translation’ for advocacy.
  • Selection of work from other illustrators, animators and graphic designers from a range of cultural traditions based on contingent serendipity from openness to new influences as they arise.
  • Technical research, skills development and experimentation to guide my own creative animation.
Who is saying what?
Post-structuralist semiotics

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols in the process of production and communication of meaning (my definition). It provides a framework for investigating meanings of community drawings and diagrams. Looking at the ways in which ‘meanings’ are constructed from visual symbols, focusing on relationships and elements in a conceptual system but (following postmodernism) exploring the challenges of potential plurality and instability of pictorial (as well as verbal) meaning across cultures and contexts.

Who understands what?
Visual Communication theory

Visual communication theory is concerned with the process by which visual artists design and send encoded messages for particular audiences and the contextual factors influencing that process. It provides a framework for looking at the work of other animators and relationships between animators, audiences and messages, including theories of visual dynamics, narrative theory, systems diagramming and information and interactive design. Different theories have emphasised and elaborated on different elements.

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