forth year: 2001/2002 series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers

course for curators of contemporary art: course participants / study excursions / program collaborators / exhibition / course participant's texts


Mike Hentz

Our theme tonight is prevod, which means translation, and tonight I am going to try to pass on to you an impression why translation is an important issue today.

Personally, I factually identify on several levels, because I grew up with four languages, which is the most basic, simple, rational explanation of what translation personifies. I grew up with Italian, French, English and German and moved from one country to the other, which, of course also meant that I worked and lived in totally different social and other contexts. I never chose, I never wanted a closed group, a community of solely artists, or, it was never my desire (even though being successful as a part of a community, and even though many people believe that it is ideal to be a part of something) to be recognised in something. I thought that it was important to be a translator, to transfer the meaning on different levels between these exclusive communities. These clubs continue today, and a strong club mentality is evident also in Ljubljana. I think that the art community is a kind of a club with it's own ghettoisation, it is closing down, it is the selective principle which chooses the level of quality. The uniformity, the sectorism of the 80's, which you have experienced also in Slovenia, resembles a heavy machine, which is slightly out of date. Through this ghettoised viewpoint the external is distorted and prejudice is very common. Like you know, the Mac users hate PC users, and so clubs emerge. However, mainly if we have a choice, we prefer to choose our communities and we choose our ghettos, we choose our families, we choose our loves (even though we have a basic attraction to incest, and incest as a closed system is basically opposed to success within a society because the only success we know in society today is basically competitiveness, whether you have a technical system or a social system which is out of the cage able to communicate with another one). The question is how to communicate and for what to communicate. But basically being competitive is success and it is interesting that social success today, especially in the last 10 years, is equivalent to economic success. Now, naturally everything is relative and woven into a context, the traditional values are a bit, or to a greater extent, divided. The visual language is inflated. Like the icons and the contents of the visual language,...(we have a visual problem here, which is connected to "techniques", again a problem of translation),... the icons, maybe the television screen is an icon too, but let us say flags, monuments, symbols have lost their values and these values can no longer be grasped in this sense, as are the ethical institutions, for the ethical institutions were supposed to, at a certain point, define the visual values. They are disorientated, because we have a visual overflow and we have enormous difficulties following the evolution and the fast adaptation. The speed of adapting to permanently changing values has become accelerated, it is a fluid, permanently changing system and as a consequence the generation of today has problems with their visions and contents, and the value and the visual forms, or let's say icons have been degraded to traffic signs. In the traditional iconastasis the icon was adored, as a translation into holiness or into the spiritual world, it was a description of how to enter the spiritual world. But today it has become something invisible, and with the introduction of electricity, which is something invisible, the god-like electricity has created fear and the fear has created a problem in the positioning of the integrity or contents, as this can not be grasped. The total transparency, through media, the total transparency of knowing everything, also god-like, being god-like through electricity, the total transparency, the total knowledge, the total visible manifestation of Hermes, Hermes who sees everything has created the loss of the secret. The loss of the secret is also the total transparency in the sense of the loss of the holy and the total transparency of the holy and having no more secrets has produced cynicism which is the last intellectual achievement of the occidental. In cynicism we can criticise everything because we know everything, but we do not know how to do things any more because knowing that everything is not valuable and because I am a perfect critic and I know everything, why should I do something, when I see that everything is shit. Cynicism is a wonderful achievement, it is the death of activism. In the net, in the Internet, we do not have traces anymore and we also have nothing left to grasp. We do not have history, we do not have patina, we do not have digital dust anymore, the digital dust which makes things valuable through time; it is timeless, the digital thing is timeless. The refusal is not enough. It is also the criticism of activism, in this sense it also creates a confusion because people do not know in what to invest and so we do not know what quality is, we kind of prefer to do nothing. I will wait until I get a better situation and then sort of decide, or if I get,... how do you say,... I do not want to go into love, I kind of fall into it and if I fall into it, it is a kind of quality because I am not responsible and I was so hammered by quality that it must be something true. Well in our past we had a lot of problems with that too. With Group Van Gogh TV we were a bit advanced in the quality of contexts, the society, or art community, or whatever, expected certain things from us and so we started with Piazza virtuale, which premeditated the net, people said it was too boring because art is supposed to be entertaining, and funny enough, entertaining is a culture connected to entertainment and there is no more work in culture. In German you have the difference between U and E, (u is synonym for popular music, e is synonym for serious or classical music) for example music and copyright, if you do entertaining music, U music, it means you get less money in comparison to serious music (E) activity. U and E, the difference of what is serious or not, is also... in German you say the word Unterhaltung (entertainment), means 'under integrity', and there is a word maybe you could invent, Überhaltung, which means kind of 'integrity over it'. But this thing of dividing, also on the level of translation, who decides what is serious and what is not serious today and who decides this quality in this time gap of doing things at a moment when nobody else perceives them and in the duration time gap you are basically dead, that is why we called ourselves Van Gogh TV, because Van Gogh is dead and when he was alive, his art meant nothing. In time translation also creates values, so sometimes we miss the live existing values. In culture, information is not seen as work so that is why we have this entertaining 'enter- under, -over- training' society, it is not seen as work, and we live in a strange culture, or a strange social context, where work is not supposed to come into culture so it becomes infotainment, which is extremely light, which is only air, or it becomes really popular and then it is not serious enough or basically just too old because who wants to hear this song, when we have better pop-music.

Another big mistake made in society confuses the difference between information and knowledge. A lot of people look at television and think that by seeing something on television or finding something on the net they already have the nascent knowledge. But information is something like a recipe, you see something but this does not mean that it can be grasped, and information and knowledge are like those two eggs; (one raw /one cooked) you see them, they both look the same, and this is most probably the difference between information and knowledge. In our media society and our wonderful education, in our western world they are perceived as if it they were the same.

On the level of translation, people also have the problem of perceiving what is real. I have experienced meeting many kids and when something really hammering happened, they said 'oh, fuckin' hell, that was like in a film'.
And if you go back 15 or 20 years you find ' we' were the source material for the really happening films. So how many people have already touched a real cow? They have seen cow on television, they have seen it, but they have never touched it and here you have another translation problem. If you look at a TV show, you do not know if it is recorded, is it live, or is it virtual, or is it taped... sometimes there is this notion of a shifting reality which you do not know how to handle. Another important thing which has happened in the last 20 years, after the dinosaurian mono cultures of television connected to state power which you in Slovenia still had 10 years ago - 10 years ago you still had a media monopoly? Now it has changed, we have private stations, we have the Internet, we are totally hammered and we are totally flooded by information and the classical Medusa-syndrome reflects this fact because when people look at the gorgon-head of Medusa, they are petrified. And why are they petrified? If you have four people talking at the same time, you kind of just tilt. You can not follow it anymore. And the petrifaction takes place in front of systematic over-information, the overflow of information creates this metaphor petrifaction by the Medusa. This petrifaction also has a classical eponym for defeat. It is called the mirror. Some of you who might know Greek history know that the mirror, the shield of the mirror, is the only possible way of viewing the Medusa without being petrified. But this viewing Medusa through the angled mirror means that you have to take a position. In this society or this situation where we are floating and we can not take any new positions, the mirror offers the possibility of grounding choice, the means to overcome this problem of information saturation. Now in the problem of translation, we also have the classical problem, the schizophrenia of the private on one hand and the public on the other. When I watch the news at home, drinking a glass of beer, my comment in front of the television is completely different to the one I would make in public where I have a television camera in front of me, asking what do I think of the Slovenian president. If I see the president of Slovenia in private on TV, I am operating on a different level then I would if a public camera asks me what do I think about the Slovenian president. So, sometimes it is really a minus / plus situation, it is totally contradictory, so in our collective value of translation we are again quite schizophrenic in our position. Once more, we are, in the sense of the Medusa-syndrome, quite petrified.

You have classical translation on a technical level, which serves as a bridge, which is language translation. This is a traditional thought concerning what translation is supposed to be. But then we have to consider another thing, we have developed in the last years, the new media, which we thought was a realistic media, in the same way we started believing photography was realism and kind of pictured reality. We thought the same thing when film came along and we thought the same thing with video, but the medium also creates a filter. This means that the technical medium you use translates something differently. You just take an example, you've been at a nice concert, you made a nice video, you made a nice video of a super concert. I don't know who was at the concert of Nick Cave the other day and thought it was great because he looks good maybe, then you made a video out of it and showed it to your best friend. You look at the same video, and you say 'oh, man this is totally boring, this video!' so you know as a matter of fact the medium is a filter. When you've seen it live, you realise there are elements which are filtered out through technical media and I call this 'the filter of the media mystic'. OK, basically we can not talk with the new media about real or reality or virtual reality, I think that is bullshit. There are no different realities because we have created all of them, or nature has created all of them, so basically everything is real. I think that everything is real and that there is no discussion about different realities because if I look at the life of a fly which lives for a day and the life of a dog which lives 12 years and I live maybe 60 years, and the timing is totally shifted and different, yet we are all real, basically, even though we have shifted timings.
But we have an instinct and this instinct is of great help in understanding a certain number of things which are difficult to understand and we have the equivalent of an internal truth and it is an intimate feeling of authenticity. This instinctive quality or source material, is where we construct all our values, an archaic feeling which we believe and which we know, even though the rest of society and everybody else thinks that this is not correct, but individually we know that it is real. I have my personal idea as to what quality is supposed to be, even though everybody in this room might have a different idea. It is also the fact that if I can't stand the smell of somebody no matter how rational it is, people say 'well you should work with him, he is a professional' and yet I can't stand the smell of him and I don't like him, but on this basic level it is impossible for me to be accepting, because I really can't stand the smell of this person. Or if somebody here in this room has an allergy, maybe somebody is allergic to my voice, he is going to be ten times more critical regarding as to what I have to say here. He is going to make a filter from the fact that he doesn't like my voice, independent of the content of what I am saying, he is not going to accept my speech or he is just going to accept only a part of it. Or on the other level, which stranger, would you lend 5000 Tolars? It is the same problem with scent, you instinctively decide to whom am I going to give this, even if you make the mistake and you might be wrong, but there are value nodes on the translation level where you decide I will lend this particular person 5000 Tolars. And what are these values? Where do they come from? Why don't you talk about them anymore?

We also have the tradition of guests and hosting, on the level of translation and travelling. The contemporary guest culture is generally a selection principle, when we say, well,... what will I profit by this person?, is he going to bring me business?, am I going to get that woman into bed?, is she going to sleep with me?, am I going to make business with him?, so the traditional, also the network thing, the networking, the traditional networking was not only connected to these profit values which we have today. Today these transports, or these guest houses, are paid with money, so it is the same with hotels. The traditional culture of guests is the culture of hotels today. This means that all this culture of connecting through personal obligation has become something where we pay for hospitality and it becomes impersonal, it becomes the place of immobility. I pay for my taxi and I can ride alone, I am not ridding in the bus anymore. And we have also increased the architecture which is connected to transport, transport is very close to translation, it parallels the trans-local, this place of mobility connected to the media has brought us vacations, through television brought other cultures to us and has created an identity problem for us. How would you describe a Slovenian hippie who goes to India, has studied in America and is earning his money in Graz with illegal work? So what is his identity? Or what is the identity of a Slovenian who makes transport business with Belgrade and is trying to make his business slightly better through the war situation? What kind of identity, what kind of a family in the sense of translation do these people have? I know I am asking a lot of questions, because the fact of being trans-national is the truth. Trans-national also means that you don't have Slovenian folklore anymore because you don't like Yugoslav folklore, some of you might like Tito, some of you will never sing the song of Tito again, and you prefer... they don't even like Laibach anymore, they just like, I don't know, techno, and so a morphing of identity, the best music at home, private and public, is to listen to organic grooves (trance popgroup), and which identity do these people have? And again, in the future, we have to make a fundamental difference between information and knowledge, and a job of the future will certainly be to differentiate between knowledge guides, which are extremely practical, and between info guides, who are basically people who just give you the information. Or what information translates into, what is the difference, and why sometimes having sex with my collaborator is something which makes the work better or sometimes, in the sense of translation, makes the work worse. It makes it impossible to work with somebody with whom you fucked in the same office and then you see him every day.

On the other level, besides those values of power, politics, posing all those contexts like, job, career, there has been a tradition in religion called for the 'gods', i.e. giving a certain percentage of your earned money, not for drinking, but for investing in the gods for nothing, without thinking of the profit margins which you might have, and this, for example is also the same with guests. This new investment, which we probably need for our sins, is 10 percent. 10 percent of every functioning culture and society is invested into the gods, is given to the temple. In the old religions, in India, in Asia, they still give, even if they are very poor, they give without any question of profit, 'what do I gain from it' they give 10 percent of their income to the gods (or to the temples), which creates a culture of giving. Naturally there is also the profit mentality, that eventually, if I give something, maybe some day I will get something back too. Now in this sense of investment, how do you evaluate the importance of your neighbours, how many of you communicate with your neighbours, how many of you really have a local interest around you, or are you just interested in your favourite music which is from New York? Do you feel responsible for the others, for your neighbours, what shit do you give about your neighbours, why don't you invest into your neighbours ?
It makes sense for me to ask these questions in the times of lack of heritage, of values and lack of orientation. Especially this generation has a problem with perceiving what is holy. Mythical holiness. There is no more holy heritage. There is no knowledge about holiness in this generation, and there is no technique. There might be a touch of romanticism as regards shamanism, the ambient music, the new age, meditation and trance etc.
But meditation is the smallest unit, the individual unit of something holy, and it is the inner knowledge that a person has of himself. If you mediate, you don't communicate it, it is a kind of a closed system. On the second level, if you enter a collective dialogue, you can't meditate any more, it becomes a collective ritual. I mean the collective rituals today are kind of related to football, to pop-concerts, and the mystical occident today survives through sex. Some people don't have to learn very much about sex, they have a technique of ecstasy, which is quite a simple one. The tradition of ecstatic, or of trance, survives today mainly through sex, holiness or ecstasy is basically very simple, it is connected to the synchronisation of body and spirit in real time. But factually fluid values change daily, like the fluid values of yesterday's newspaper, which is the oldest newspaper you can find, it is again a localised problem and leads also to the problem of identity. In German you say Heimat, French la patrie, which connects to the classical notion of home, or Heimat as a geographic location, to some roots, to some heritage, to some profession. Who out of you is continuing in your fathers profession. I guess that 90 percent of the people here are not taking over the house, the profession, the roots of their family. You all study in a different city then the one you came from. You all move somewhere else. So the traditional geographic notion of home has vanished and the heritage of values has vanished too and today the feeling of home is defined through a feeling which is something you can not materialise, the feeling is something which you can not grasp, it is ephemeral, it is connected to cosiness, to trust, to security, to the spiritual communities, through music, through fashion, through friends, through networks, which are not related to geographical spaces, self-chosen, private, intimate values against family, heritage, responsibility, against laws, against nation, against fatherland, for what are you ready to die for today, for a good pop-group or for your country? Or would you only die for your friends? So these imaginary communities which have no more roots, which have no more local roots, which have a multi-local, a trans-local identity, those flying, those virtual, mind-blowing identities, the homesickness of today, home is also the desire to see other places. And the fact of travelling to India, to New York, to everywhere is the equivalent to being homesick, but translates factually into the desire to go somewhere on the level of 'my house' 'my feeling of home', the graspable fact of what belongs to you, what is your ground, what is your content in a society of fluid values, it becomes virtual, totally virtual. Now we to a greater extent live, especially through media, in a perfect society and the perfect society has forgotten that our occidental society is built upon a mistake. All our science and the development of new technology etc. is based on a system of evolution through mistakes, but we have censored the mistakes in the media. We have a media world which shows only perfection, but a lab is working with mistakes, and the lab stinks and there is no slick end-product which you can show in a 3D animation and kind of prove what the product is going to be. All of our culture is basically racist, war and mistakes and a mistake as a misunderstanding, as a bad translation, is also the source of everything. Bad translation is the source of war which we have and it is also the source of misunderstanding, but our society is projecting perfect images and is trying to sell perfect products and is trying to make us believe in reality this is what dictates how things are meant to be.

In this problem of contexts you could also take the example which I'd like to give about a Turkish man going to Berlin. This Turkish man is working as a guest-worker in Germany and he has a wife promised, a promised wife, which he has never touched, never kissed and every month he sends money to this family. It is really hard work, people treat him like shit, because he is Turkish, people are racist towards him, and then he goes to a disco, and he meets a blonde woman, a wonderful gorgeous lady, and he dances with her and they have fun together and he drinks beer with her and they go home together. They fuck together and he feels, in his context he feels a slight problem, he says 'oh, she's a slut, she's a prostitute, but she is nice', so he doesn't know how to translate the fact that this 18 year old woman who was nice enough to fuck him and who likes him and she starts talking to him and asks him why is he sending all his fucking money back to Turkey, why doesn't he use it for himself. Why is he not spending it, it is him who should have fun, and he shouldn't work. And this man gets very confused in his system and he is, like in the Medusa-syndrome, petrified. And we have a similar problem with networks. In the future we will have open networks where you will say, or where you will discuss, 'I have to be tolerant, I have to be open to everything, I have to be tolerant to those fucking Turks, to those fucking Yugoslavs, but basically I don't want to, but I have to be open, I have to be politically correct, I have to like everybody, I have to accept all contexts, I have to respect all contexts'. Or, I say, OK, I don't give a shit about that, I am eclectic, I am not democratic, and I don't fuckin' want to be democratic and I want to make some money and I will just make a closed system, I will make a club, I'll take some fees and people will have to pay and then we will have a closed system in the future. So these are two variations of the networks which we have, it is the closed and the open system, both approaching and both being parallel. Or, the question is also where do we invest in the future. In an open or in a closed system and I mean, a closed system is also idealised, 'well you know, Slovenian beer is always the best in the world, everywhere I go, I just choose the Slovenian beer I have at home'. 'I can eat some Chinese food, I can eat everything, but the cooking of my mother is just the best'. And in my closed system I will never accept anything else. And now, the long term investment, also considering why don't we have universities or courses in university which translate these things, which translate these topics so that we understand them better and where are the recipes which explain to us how to use the information we obtain and how to transfer this information into knowledge, because knowing a recipe doesn't mean that you know how to cook, and who is going to teach us this or in the future how will we grasp the fact that art is basically a fraud, because you create reality using dead material, and this piece of paper which is nothing, I can't eat it, or anything, and certain people standing in front of a piece of a paper, find they are moved to tears. So how do we accept the fact that art is basically artificial?
It is like voodoo, it is conjuring life from death, how do you translate this? I mean, voodoo is meant to take dead material, to kill somebody and vice versa, in art you do the same, you take dead material and spiritually awaken it. You sense this in bedrooms, you go into a bedroom and you are kind of afraid to touch something because things are arranged in an internal order and this material is impregnated with the power and the feeling of the people who live in it and you have respect for it. How do you grasp this quality, how do you formulate these kind of qualities and how do we learn these old, holy languages, when today political ethics and philosophers are disoriented and decadent, especially in the last 30 years? What about all these politics? If we sit frankly in front of the television with a glass of beer, we say the truth and we say it is a pile of shit and they don't know anything and they have no knowledge to tell us where to go and how to develop this. And all these wonderful politics about democracy and everything, we all know that democracy is basically total decadence. We know that democracy is becoming a total Kafka (The Process), it is total horror, and still in public we say, OK, this is something we have to do, in the sense of human rights and to be accepted, etc... And even the Environmentalists, the Environment is not a philosophical aspect, the Environmentalists are a police force. Why don't we give them a ministry, I mean if on the level of philosophy I'd have a police party, nobody would vote for them. Nobody would accept that the police have a political philosophy, it is not possible, the Environmentalists are not a philosophy, they are a control institution. So I don't mind being under control, but I do mind giving them the opportunity to talk about this philosophy. What does this social globalisation mean? How do we localise a new level of religion in the global society, how could we define religion in a different way? Perhaps something like the crossover of different cultures coming together, the Slovenian hippie, how do we redefine this crossover and how do we grasp these new identifications, these visions? What kind of vision did the technocrats bring us? What is the consequence of the technocratic vision and what do we do with these new tools and in what sense are these values, and when will we have the kind of Nürnberg (Nürnberg processes in 1946 judging the national socialist leaders for crime) media process where people start discussing what media killed in all these worlds and how was the world war against socialism, or communism won? It was won through media and media is not red with blood, it is politically correct, you can't grasp it. Who is going to make those people responsible? Why do people only talk about blood in Kosovo, while real blood flows elsewhere, why don't people talk about the economic crash in Russia in 1997, of the stock market which crushed the Asian countries like Indonesia and Thailand and those people starving and dying in Russia. And Mr. Soros was also a part of this war with his company Quantum, of which there is no evaluation today. People only believe in the real blood, they think that the real blood in the sense of translation is the thing we should judge. People still believe that media has no meaning, that it is not violent, that it does not exist. They are arms, and these arms, you can't grasp them, you can't do anything with them, everybody is profiting from them. Now what if 1930's America would have declared war on Italy. I was trying to explain Chechnya, Russia fighting Chechnya, I was saying 'oh those poor Chechens'. Those fucking poor Chechens are the worst Mafia I've ever seen in my life. And so Boris Yeltzin declared war on Chechnya as a reason to arrest all the Caucasian people in Moscow and in Russia, to control this. If, in the United States in the 30's, America would have declared war on Italy, they could have arrested all the Italians and there could have, would have, never been an Al Capone, there would have never been a Lucky Luciano or people like this.

And now in translation, this serves merely as an example to explain that we have different values in the classical sense of belief or blindness, this ethical fraud involves deceiving ourselves the whole time about what is supposed to be holy, what is supposed to be valuable. The evolution of value is fluid, values just flow away and they change like the stock market every day, the ethical values also shift and change, we have no possibility to screw them down but we need a new grounding point like the shield of Medusa, the mirror. In the future how can we decide what is important, are we allowed to really use all the tools and to bring to an end something which is important, does the goal justify the means we use. And where is the consequence, the end game where you are only a person who sits around and says 'I'll sit and see what happens' while the others sort it out. Where is the end of this contrivance, what has stayed timeless, what can we still keep, what is the music we can still listen to? On the level of value, how do you translate these timeless values, how can we keep them? I mean, it is clear that modernity has one effect, that modernity can only develop on the level of destruction. How do we choose what do we destroy in the future, which building do we destroy, which old building do we destroy, which valuable or not valuable building do we destroy to rebuild it into something new? What are the tools of modernity which help us to continue, to take decisions, to be able to choose in the future? The big problem is we are no longer educated to make choices about what is important because everybody just says 'well that is not so bad, but I've seen something better'. That musician? Not so bad, but I saw a concert that was number 1, and I know that there is an A class. So you are confused like in the Medusa-syndrome, so you don't know where to turn and what to decide and which values get lost in the transport filter. You have modem/ transport, you have two way transport where things pass through a filter and where things get lost in transport.

I was basically trying to inspire the importance in the field of translation, and I've lived through a number of symposiums where I realised that the people had forgotten to invite a translator and I hope that with my little inspiration I have given you enough points to think about; a higher percentage investment into this topic is needed, because translation is not only technical, it is also connected to content. And another thing we have forgotten about tonight, or in general, is that we have created post-modernism as the concept of post-modernism, but the reality of post-modernism has only just started now, and I think we are the people who are going to have to take the responsibility for it now. So thank you very much.


*Video lecture in a form of audio-visual performance was carried out live behind the spectators and simultaneously projected on the screen in front of them