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Translators' notes
Looking at works produced by diasporic artists, such as Erika Tan, Susan Pui San Lok discusses how the encounters of 'pidgin' languages and cultures can highlight opportunities for challenging the status quo.

Interrupted Transmission

This writing belongs, not to a monument outside the history it narrates, nor to a philosophical system of the kind Marx was striving to leave behind, but to a practice of communication, a process of writing and rewriting, what the Situationists called 'detourning,' or the appropriation and retooling of phrases, terms, polemics. (Wark, 1999: 22)

Pidgin [pij'in] 1. a minimal second language that is a combination of the vocabulary and pronunciation patterns of two or more languages, created when groups speaking mutually unintelligible languages have a need to communicate, as for trade or negotiations; grammatically, it usually is a simplified form of one of the languages. 2. loosely, any simplified or abridged form of a language used by non-native speakers. (Said to be from a Chinese mispronunciation of the word business within Chinese Treaty ports.) (Willmoth, 2002: unpaginated)

Blinds down, the gallery is darkened, dim. Light flickers, bouncing from double projections that double the dimensions, two to four, of obliquely opposing walls. Pigeons flock, stilled mid-flight in black and white, later flying into and past the artist's lens, colourful; a head in profile, lips moving, whispers (- me, my lips to E.'s ear); pages of texts in unfamiliar scripts; text messages, abbreviations and decodings; and aerial views of a flat, indistinct landscape. Somewhere in the sequence comes the announcement, 'an exercise in: phonological stretching'. Falling for the authority of the caption, an old love of linearity re-surfacing, I catch myself wondering if I have arrived, by chance, at the beginning, realizing much later that there is none, no one, only many. Talking heads ensue, speaking heavily accented, halting versions of English, awkward shapes of words coming uneasily from ill- practised mouths. From the spoken to the written: texts appear fleetingly, white on black, again in various languages- too briefly to be caught, and only then by speed-reading multi-linguists. This is followed by a slow and suspenseful game of whispers: from me to E. ... to E. ... D. ... A. ... P., M. ... J., J., A. (or is this a later round?) ... and finally to S., who tells us, 'Language is a skill that relates to a toy.'

Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. [2]

PIDGIN: interrupted transmission(2001), a multi-media installation by the artist Erika Tan, takes up the thematics of some of her earlier works, refracting the discursive construction, classification and dissemination of orientalist identities, histories, cultures and knowledges, through the dark liquid glass of language (see Figures 1-7). [3] This article/foray begins with - re- stages - a series of shared scenarios that invoke the commonality of its players as artists and diasporic subjects, underpinned less by an indubitable, unwavering 'Chineseness' (or for that matter, 'Britishness') than by an assumption of awkward and pleasurable multiplicities and uncertainties. Tongue-tied and tripped, 'pidgins' flutter; these travel/travail, make-do and work the scenes, performing and enunciating enduring questions around the politics and poetics of speaking and translating; invoking the conflation of linguistic competence with cultural and ethnic 'authenticity', of notions of diaspora with 'home'; presaging the inevitability of 'pidgin' languages and cultures; and alerting a sometime artist-writer-translator to exercise with caution her notes on translators' notes.

In PIDGIN, questions of cultural origin, authenticity and meaning are raised via expositions of 'the heteroglossia, the productivity, multiplicity, and the open-ended nature of language', in the form of 'borderline skirmishes' (Willmoth, 2002: unpaginated). The complex and ambitious project appears to take as its starting point the task of defining and locating the origins of 'pidgin'. And yet, while various definitions can indeed be found within the overall work, Tan's project is not so much to define as to mediate as a site at/through which multiple meanings and processes might coalesce or contradict each other, as 'a site where incongruous things can meet' (Trinh, 1999: 69). Theory and practice are necessarily embroiled in 'aspects of language and translation' within a wider, open-ended inquiry (Steiner, 1975). Mixing and stretching metaphors, offsetting the written, in varieties of immutable print and idiosyncratic hand, with the elusive and infinitely elastic spoken, Tan's work maps a difficult and disjointed trajectory of loops, slippages and double-takes, exploring the always already perforated 'contact zones', 'zones of domination' as well as 'mediation' between cultures, via the 'contact languages' of pidgin that inhabit and transgress their borders. [4] Solemn, overwhelming, at turns alienating and engaging, PIDGIN: interrupted transmission is perhaps most affecting in the seemingly unaffected moments of bewilderment, frustration and pleasure, during affectations - or stagings - of play.


Pidgin, Pigeon

Do you hear 'pidgin' or 'pigeon'? [5] Footage of carrier pigeons being tagged, released, and variations of, recur; a single pigeon in flight, close-ups of pigeons in a loft. Black and white stills of pilots with pigeons amid cheering crowds parallel later colour moving image footage from a cockpit, the pilot faintly heard but unseen as he navigates a plane over green fields, eventually coming in to land. The play on 'pidgin'/'pigeon' enacts a slippage that registers as a visual and written pun but not in the spoken; [6] a gap in translation that casts doubt on the transparency and stability of language as a mere tool of communication, or reliable means of representation. This doubt is embodied by the struggles of Tan's filmic subjects to speak. Tackling texts translated into English, then phonetically transcribed into each speaker's so-called 'mother tongue', languages and meanings become emphatically distanciated, several times removed for both speaker and audience. Thus, a range of strangely inflected, splintered English(es) are rendered through a collage of approximate sounds in Mandarin/Putonghua Chinese, Greek(s), Arabic, Dutch and Afrikaans (already classified by many as a pidgin or creole), into alternative pidgin languages. [7] Halting the sometimes frenetic flow of images, altering the pace and space of the work, each hesitation signals a lack of symmetry between signifier and signified, gesturing towards the elusive/inventive nature of meaning construction, communication and translation.

:-)smile:Dbig grin:-Igrim face;-)wink:Psticking out tongue {{{{{{{ }}}}}}} lots of hugs :'(crying:-&tongue-tied:-)X(-:kiss ( '}{' )boy and girl kissing (_)? [_]?coffee or tea C[[]]a pint of beer >^,,^snake ><*.*><)))">Something Smells Fishy AFKAway From Keyboard ATK At The Keyboard BBL Be Back Later B4N By For Now BRBBe Right Back FWIWFor What It's Worth GMTA Great Minds Think Alike IMHO In My Humble Opinion LOLLaughing Out Loud LTNSLong Time No See TTFN Ta-Ta For Now TTYL Talk To You Later OIC Oh I See L8R Later SI Sarcasm Intended OOO Out Of Order SOMYSick of Me Yet? GLB4UGH Get Lost Before You Get Hurt WYBMADIITY Will You Buy Me A Drink If I Tell You?
(Tan, in Tan and Willmoth, 2002)

Gaps between acts of speaking and writing, enunciation and inscription, spoken and written, are accentuated by the contrast of stalled speech-acts and accelerated modes of writing represented by SMS mobile phone text messaging (and imaging), based on abbreviations and alphanumeric strings which function 'more like a specialized orthography (spelling conventions) ... than an actual pidgin'. For Tan, text messaging is demonstrative of 'the creation of a language on a minute level' (unattributed quotes, Willmoth, 2002). Inscribing a poetics of interruption, disjunctures between registers are further compounded by the relationship between video and audio tracks, and underscored by the formal arrangement of objects in the space. Two projections are framed by opposing walls that, like their content, are slightly askew. Not-quite parallel, not-quite mirror - one is set at an angle, subtly distinguishing the space, like an accent over a vowel.

Unsynchronized passages shift attention to six speakers, whose visibility foregrounds their role as output mechanisms, artificial mouths similarly estranged from their 'words' and 'utterances'. Emitting varied sounds, they bear forth the tappings of a telegraphic transmission (morse code perhaps), sounds of a woman singing in Chinese, radio stations tuning in and out, and with them, voices and languages veering and swerving towards and away from each another, before disappearing into the 'silence' of background interference; pigeons coo; a phone rings - or is that coming from the gallery office? An appropriate interference nonetheless.

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