北京 100007 中国
38 Jianchang Hutong
(off Guozijian Jie)
Beijing, 100007 China

Untitled Document

-------Original Message-------
To: Rania Ho
From: Patty Chang
Subject: proposal for your space
Sent: 05 Apr '08 15:41

Dear Rania,
I have an idea for your space…  I was going to come through Beijing to do this translation project that I've been working on, then I thought maybe I could propose it to you guys.  It is a text, or conversation, written by Walter Benjamin with Anna May Wong.  Anna May Wong is the first Chinese American movie star from the 1920-30s era.  When I was trying to make a project with some films of hers, I had this text translated on video in LA from German into English.  Since Wong is from LA and Benjamin is from Berlin, and that is where they met, I want to have this video translated from Beijing to Berlin from English to Chinese to Mongolia, Russian, Polish then back to German.  Kind of like a game of telephone.  The video from Beijing would then be performed with simultaneous translation from Chinese to Mongolian in Mongolia, then from Mongolian to Russian in Russian, etc, moving over land by train.  The first time someone translated the translation video was when I was giving an artist’s talk in Cuba, so they were translating into Spanish.  I thought it was so interesting.  I was thinking that I could propose a performance of the translating of the video as an event or a “lecture”.   Perhaps with some other elements involved, no idea what yet, preferably entertaining or a lottery to lure in visitors.

In the project, I’m interested in the unconscious desires of the West toward the East that is present in the language Benjamin uses when he talks about her (or you could say generally that the West has towards the East, kind of like how Shangri-La came out of a  century’s worth of British exploration of Tibet). 

Anyhow, I'm going to attach a text describing my work on the project so far and a short statement I just wrote for some other organization, very handy. So what I would propose for your space is to make a video screening with simultaneous live translation into Chinese. The video screening/translation would be part of an event happening in the storefront. This event might also include feedback from visitors about what they thought of the content of the translation. I would want to videotape the event as part of the larger project. I think I would want something else to happen too, but not sure what it is yet...

Sorry about this not too well organized email.  Perhaps we could discuss it if you're interested and we could talk about different possibilities.

hope you are well!

 xx patty

----- Original Message ----
 From: Rania Ho
 To: Patty Chang
 Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 12:58:19 PM
 Subject: Re: proposal for your space

Hey Patty,

Been running around a little bit, so apologies for not responding right away. Thanks so much for sending the proposal! I think your project could be really interesting in the arrow factory, especially with a performance in the middle of the hutong.

I really like your ideas of interpretation (or misinterpretation) that come through translation. Not only does it happen between languages and cultures, but also our own actions in the arrow factory space are also subject to a kind of (mis)interpretation by the neighbors who live and work there. Misinterpretation is happening on so many levels so it would be great to explore it through this project. Jianchang hutong is like a channel for parallel universes to have fleeting moments of contact: expats on generous stipends shopping at the vegetable stands with Chinese migrants; watching SUVs and tricycles negotiating the narrow alley. Everyone who walks that hutong brings their own context to it, from locals to tourists to everyone in-between. Not only as you say "the unconscious” desires of the West’s relation to the East" but in this case also the unconscious desires of the East's relation to the West. I think there's a lot to be mined here.

Also, what are you thinking with regards to scheduling?

I'm sure there will be lots more to discuss, but I wanted to send this off before i sleep. talk soon.


-------Original Message-------
To: Rania Ho
From: Patty Chang
Subject: Re: proposal for your space
Sent: 15 Apr '08 16:14

It's funny I've been interested in Walter Benjamins essay The Task of the Translator, because of his conversation with Wong.  There is a quote that I find important:

“…a translation does not find itself, so to speak, in the middle of the high forest of the language itself; instead, from outside it, facing it, and without entering it, the translation calls to the original within, at that one point where the echo in its own language can produce a reverberation of the foreign language’s work.”

When I paraphrase this in my mind, instead of calling to the original within, I always think of shooting to a target within, like shooting an arrow. I like that as a metaphor of space that this could take place at the arrow factory.

Originally I was thinking to come and shoot something during the Olympics but I am still up in the air with my schedule. I am free in July after the first week, I am also free in June, as another option.  I could come shoot in June then you could present the video for whatever month in the summer you'd like.

talk soon!

 xx patty


----- Original Message ----
From: Rania Ho
To: Patty Chang; Pauline Yao
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2008 2:21:17 AM
Subject: Re: proposal for your space

Hey Patty,

I'm adding pauline onto this thread.

The idea of translation as a target is intriguing. It's kind of funny because your project seems to address the fact that one can never hit the bullseye. One aims and could be close, but can never hit it exactly- a target without a bullseye. As someone who lives a bilingual existence, I can relate to that. I also always have the feeling that I think I’m translating one idea, but I never REALLY know how it is being perceived at the other end. I think the concept has a lot of substance, but as you mentioned, the write up is currently more like an abstract. How would the concept be "translated" into a visual experience?

Some comments on logistics:
It might be better to do the performance before and exhibit it later, maybe during the Olympics. June is a good time, july is also ok, but once july comes around a lot of people will be leaving the city. Pauline probably has more ideas about scheduling.

the space is not multi-use. It is dedicated only for the exhibition for now…

pauline, please chime in. I've probably missed something vital.


----original message---
To: Rania, Pauline Yao
From: Patty Chang
Date: Sun, Apr 27, 2008 at 1:46 AM
Subject: Re: proposal for your space

What about a knife thrower?  I was thinking of one of the Anna May Wong films, called Song, where she meets up with a knife thrower who makes a knife throwing outline around her body.  I was thinking about recreating some of the scenes from her films and this one is a scene I use in my talk when I speak about Benjamin because of the translation quotation. 

It is somewhat related to the shooting of arrows or trajectories. It would be an interesting event, but are there knife throwers like that in China?  I should forward to you the quicktime so you can see what I'm talking about.

Re scheduling: I can try to come in June if it is better.
xx patty

---original message---
From: Patty Chang
To: Pauline Yao, Rania Ho
Date: Fri, May 2, 2008 at 12:21 AM
Subject: arrow factory

Hi Pauline, Rania,
Nice to talk to you last night, Pauline! 
Excited to be working with you guys and arrow factory!

Just to follow up on our conversation:
What I need your help on:
-finding a knifethrower(!!) and beautiful assistant
-finding a translator to do simultaneous translation from a video

These are people I would definitely like to use, and especially if you think it is a good idea to come the end of May, I think it would be the first priority to try and find a knifethrower.  The translator I think would not be as much of a problem.

That's it for now. Let's keep in touch about everything and talk again next week.

xx patty

To: Pauline Yao, Rania Ho
From: Patty Chang
Date: Fri, May 9, 2008 at 1:10 AM
Subject: Re: skype talk


To recap our conversation:

I think it would be important to have multiple translators that translate the Chinoiserie video.  Because depending on background, area of expertise, and gender, not only will the text be read in a different way, but also the translators will be read in different way.
I think it is an interesting idea to stage an 'artist's talk' as the translation performance, since this was how I originally conceived of the idea in Cuba.  There could be multiple translators planted in the audience that come up to translate for me during the talk. The subject of the talk will focus on the Chinoiserie translation video. The constant replacement of translators during a talk is an uncanny situation which will put into question the authenticity of the information the audience is receiving and the slippage of meanings between languages. Whose meaning are they getting, the translator's or the artist's?  Who is performing the translator or the artist?

I also like the idea of having the knife throwing event and the translated artist talk on separate monitors at the Arrow Factory space. The knife throwing event could be on a large flat screen on the front of the Arrow Factory shop windows. The audio would be the translations from the artist talk. The video of the artist talk could be on a monitor in the back window of the gallery which faces an obscure courtyard, difficult but accessible to the public.  I think this works well for your imagined concept of the Arrow Factory and how it integrates into the neighborhood of the Hutong. Who is the public of the Arrow Factory- is it the local people who live and work nearby, or it is a contemporary art viewing public?  People who pass the front of the shop can see the video of the knife throwing events. Those who search it out, or are part of the art world insiders, or those who stumble upon it by accident, can see the video of the translation artist talk in the back window of the Arrow Factory's space.  The more hidden location that requires more investigation lends another layered meaning onto the project. 

I am also going to think about the installation aspect of the space.

More soon.
xx patty


----Original Message----
From: Pauline Yao
To: Patty Chang
Cc: rania ho
Date: Fri, May 9, 2008 at 9:49 PM
Subject: Re: skype?

dear patty,

Forgive my longwinded-ness but i have up to now been largely silent so just doing stream of consciousness to catch up a bit.

To me this project has so many different layers and dimensions and the great thing is, I constantly keep thinking of new ones. It is exciting to be working with you on it and I find your ideas to connect up such (on the surface) diverse personalities and figures, i.e. Anna May Wong, Benjamin, even Brecht fascinating; and now with this knifethrower idea (and the artist talk situation), concepts of the performative, entertainment and even spectacle begin to enter the mix. there is the overriding issue of translation, which carries with it all sorts of other associations, not only misinterpretation but mistranslation. As Sarat Maharaj has critically reminds us, there is good translation, bad translation, over translation and under translation but perhaps most salient is mistranslation or creative mis-translation which is always is about possibility, potential for new meanings and new creativity. it creates a sort of third space, between worlds or core truths and in this sense echoes certain aspects of Arrow Factory and it's celebration of this abyss.

You mentioned in one of your earlier emails something about how this conversation between Wong and Benjamin seemed to be about unconscious desires of the West towards the East and I think this is true, but actually it makes me go back to issues of representation and colonialism/post-colonialism. I know it may seem outdated but if you
think about colonialism, the core concern being about representation, about the inability to present oneself (and therefore being subject to others representation).then with post-colonialism comes the search for self-presentation, the move away from subordination to being able to speak for oneself. but then it is also true that how can one speak for oneself without the need for translation, is this possible? In other words the conditions post-colonialism are inherently linked to notions of translation, we cannot escape it since we live in an age of constant and unending translation. This is a intractable part of not
only my life here in China, but for many others and more importantly something that resurfaces continually in all aspects of the art-world here which is still continuously navigating or translating across the inside/outside, chinese/non-chinese, national/international divide.

taking these ideas back to your piece, and the two facets it contains--the translation of your Chinoiserie piece, and the knife throwing event, I think there are indeed many interesting connections to be made. We have pointed many of these out already: linkages between translation and trying to hit the target, being on the outside
'shooting an arrow' into the center and so on. I also really like this idea to show two separate works, and playing on that in-between space that Arrow Factory embraces. Showing one piece in the back may pose some real challenges but I will look into it and report back to you ASAP. for me, the connections to the environment are becoming more clear, because when you think of it, translation has two essential criteria--historical and social. it is the latter that i think is worth picking up on...the notion that for a translation to be accepted, it must fit or meet the parameters of a particular community. just as a translator never works in a historical vacuum, translation is never an isolated task uninformed by a community and context, it is part of a logic of signification that takes place within a social framework. In this case, the social framework of Arrow
Factory, as Rania described, embodies its own set of conflicts—expats buying vegetables from migrant workers, SUV's fighting for space with bikes and tricycles, wide-eyed tourists rubbing shoulders with the pajama clad residents and so on. To present a work that grapples with these ideas is the actual setting is so intriguing and in many
respects allows for a certain intellectual 'bridge' for a whole range of further ideas and activities.

hey I also thought of a possible working title for this project: "Target Language" It makes me think not only of targets, shooting arrows or throwing knifes at a specified target, but also notions of translation that deal with many layers and languages, going from one
'original' language into the 'target language'.

More soon,