Events

Capturing the Untranslatable in a Performance of Many Languages

Artist Renée Petropoulos honors the intrinsic qualities of different languages in We Will Congregate, which features texts in English, Spanish, and the Zapotec language.

Performance of “We Will Congregate” at MACO, Oaxaca, December 1, 2018 (courtesy Renée Petropoulos)

The term “lost in translation” refers to words or phrases whose meaning cannot easily be converted from one language to another. Artist Renée Petropoulos honors the intrinsic qualities of different languages in her “directed reading” performance, We Will Congregate, which features texts in English, Spanish, and the Zapotec language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico. Conceived in collaboration with Arturo Hernández, a master weaver from Mitla, Oaxaca, the performance features four musicians and three readers, whose voices will start, stop, and overlap each other based on cues from Petropoulos. The texts are drawn from conversations among members of the Zapotec community about ancestry, time, and land, augmented by an intermediary voice “traveling between counties and cultures,” as Petropoulos says, and a metronomic voice keeping time with excerpts from Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. “Each voice speaks its own language, allowing the audience to make choices of what to listen to throughout the work,” she told Hyperallergic via email.

Renée Petropoulos with Arturo Hernandez, “Platforms & Wool” (2018), studio view, 96 by 222 inches (image courtesy Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Oaxaca, Mexico)

The performance is a pre-cursor to the exhibition, We Will Congregate: Platforms & Wool, which opens on October 30 and features handwoven rebozos created by Hernández with artisans from Los Angeles’s Oaxacan community. These traditional garments bear phrases in different languages, pointing to the difficulty in translating meaning across different cultures.

When: Saturday, October 19, 2–4pm
Where: Tongva Park (1615 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, California )

More info at 18th Street Arts Center

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