(Trans)literate art: language, multilingualism and translation in the arts

The editors of FORUM+ launch a call for contributions

In today's globalized society, the use of different languages and, subsequently, the proverbial confusion of tongues are complex but interesting facts. In every urban area worldwide, a diversity of languages is spoken and written. This is automatically reflected in the field of the arts: in Flanders and the Netherlands, both the arts sector and higher art education are already busy scenes of international dynamics, exchanges and collaborations. Within that context and from a pragmatic perspective, in most cases a 'kind of English' is spoken in order to arrive at a sharing of knowledge and understanding. It has become the lingua franca of art and science in our western world. This is not without consequence: since only a minority of the world population speaks English as a first language, it always implies translation processes in which meaning is potentially lost. Moreover, this choice of language is never neutral and involuntarily conforms speakers to a predetermined interrelationship. After all, language, more so than communication, is also an expression of identity, culture, and power structures between social groups.

In a world with thousands of languages and hundreds of writing systems, there are numerous societal and artistic challenges in which artists have a voice and can feed, question or investigate the debate on the role of language, multilingualism and translation. Artists, designers, illustrators, typographers, calligraphers, performers, dancers and musicians interact with our multilingual world through individual or group projects. They often exercise other forms of language and communication, such as body language and non-verbal or non-symbolic language, thereby denouncing the dominance of logocentric notions in language.

This new FORUM+ dossier collects contributions on the role of language in the arts, higher art education, and research in the arts. The editors explicitly welcome contributions on research practices that focus on the relationship between language and art, as well as visual essays in which less common systems of language, writing or artistic notation are used, explored, or invented; also alternative carriers or forms of language can be introduced, discussed or used.

The following (non-exhaustive) list of questions/themes aims to provide some guidance:

  • What role do languages, writing systems, notation systems (e.g. scores, or notation systems within dance, sign languages, invented languages and more) play in the artistic oeuvre or within an artistic research process?

  • How do different language forms relate to each other in the artistic oeuvre or within a research process, such as personal language, academic language, embodied language, and material language?

  • What is the impact of multilingualism or translation on artistic processes, dynamics and the transfer of meaning? What is lost in translation? What can be gained?

  • How or in what artistic forms can the debate on language, diversity and multilingualism be rendered or take shape?

  • How can an artistic process investigate and question the power relations inherent in language (both languages and systems of writing), for example in the discourse on decoloniality, diversity and inclusion?

  • What is the impact of globalization, mobility, and migration on our language (perception) and how does it translate artistically?

  • What can be the function of artistic research in highlighting and questioning the friction between speaker or writer and listener or reader?

  • What role does the material, visual and/or auditory dimension of language play?

The editors of FORUM+ welcome textual (3.000-5.000 words), audio and visual (3 spreads / 6 pages) contributions. They can be submitted to the editorial board by e-mail to redactie@forum-online.be. These contributions will then be subjected to peer review. Author’s guidelines and a template for articles can be downloaded here.

The deadline for submission is 15 April 2021.

Image: Mekhitar Garabedian.
From the series 'fig. a, a comme alphabet [ayppenkeem]'.
2017, pencil, pen, marker on paper, dimensions variable.
Courtesy of the artist and Baronian-Xippas Gallery.