Friday, 13 June 2008

Voice-Over: Re-Translating Harun Farocki

The classical set of questions:
How much do you lose when translating a text, and how much do you win?
How much does a voice and its intonation change when another person speaks in another language?
How can you imagine an author if you are only able to hear his or her double?
How can he or she speak for him/herself if actually it is you speaking for them?

Translation as Voice-Over: Harun Farocki uses his own voice to speak “over” images; his critical analysis adds layers of contextual information to the selected images and movements, covers their edge with sub- and meta-titles. Or, putting it the other way around (not as addition, but as subtraction): “The uncovering of images from the many layers of their encoding”, says the translator, “Die Bilder von den Ablagerungen ihrer Kodierung zu befreien”, say the editors of Harun Farocki’s texts, “To liberate the images from sediments of their encoding”, say I, maybe not in correct English, but in admiration of the image the editors have chosen to describe Harun Farocki’s “archaeolo-analytical” device.

“Re-Translating Harun Farocki” is a simple operation (I will re-translate the English translation of some of his texts into German) but has rather complex implications: Farocki synchronizes moving images with his line of thought, rewinds them, holds them, comments them, synchronizes his voice with the movement of the images. “Winding back and forth” (“beim Hinundherfahren”) a third element emerges out of text/voice and image/movement. Edited in a book, the texts still hold a certain performative quality of synchronization; their translator needs to move “back and forth”, using his or her own voice to perceive the presence inherent in the printed words, like in a drama. But again: the imagination of images that move(d) along with these words is still present, like a visual echo that provoked itself a voice (the performative quality of Echo’s words, forcing Narcissus to react and to set into motion another series of echos…).

How to translate a visual echo that lingers in your memory in disguise?
If the way we remember images differs so much from how we saw them from how they are recorded from how they were revisited, then a translation (that loses of what is thought of what is written down of what is remembered) can only win if marking this embodied difference, this mental subtraction Deleuze praised as “minotarian memory”.

Let’s start with what an editing room is (“Was ein Schneideraum ist”, Harun Farocki, 1980).

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