Can This Be Translated?

PSiperf-ice3.25_2048

Can This Be Translated?
1st Action: Breaking the Ice
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

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Can This Be Translated?
1st Action: Breaking the Ice
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

Dsc00015–2048-2

Can This Be Translated?
Breaking the Ice
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

Dsc00053_2048

Can This Be Translated?
2nd Action: Tell Me
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

Dsc00046_2048

Can This Be Translated?
2nd Action: Tell Me
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

Dsc00052_2048

Can This Be Translated?
2nd Action: Tell Me
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

PSiperf-eating_webbet_2048

Can This Be Translated?
2nd Action: Tell Me
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

PSiperf-rehearsingfuture4x6@150_2048

Can This Be Translated?
3rd Action: Rehearsing My Future
PSi Conference
Mainz, Germany

This series of interventions were created specifically for the 7th Annual Performance Studies international conference.

event:
7th Annual Performance Studies International Conference: Translation-Transition-Transformation
venue:
Hallway Philosophicum, University of Mainz, Germany
location:
University of Mainz, Germany
sponsor:
Performance Studies international
date:
March 2001

Project Notes:

This series of interventions were performed for the 7th Annual Performance Studies international conference which was held at the University of Mainz, Germany, in April 2001. They were created in response to the conference theme of “Translation, Transition, Transformation,” and were designed to infiltrate the context and content of the conference, attended by academics and artists. The actions occurred in the main entrance hall, on each day of the conference.

First Action: Breaking the Ice
9 AM – Noon, Thursday

Standing in one location without moving for three hours, I held a 6 inch sphere of solid ice cupped in my outstretched hands, until it melted to nothing. I made eye contact with people who approached me, but did not speak or turn my head. The ice slowly melted, dripping into a pool of water which formed on the floor at my feet. Dressed in a black dress, I blended in with the people at the conference, the only difference being my stillness. The movement of the conference participants ebbed and flowed, as people came in and registered, picked up information, and met old friends. Some were aware of my action, some stopped to watch, others walked by without noticing, engrossed in their own affairs. The puddle on the floor did not evaporate until after 6 PM, and so remained a record of my action the entire day.

The first morning of a conference has a particular kind of energy, especially when people are arriving from all over the world. I chose this action as both a contrast of stillness in the midst of activity, as well as a play on the process of thawing of formality, as people get to know each other.

Second Action: Tell Me
10 AM – 4 PM, Friday

I set up a table, covered with a black velvet cloth, with chairs at opposite sides, and placed a small card on the table that said “TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW.” Sitting in the opposite chair, I made eye contact with people passing, and invited them to sit down with a gesture. The question posed an interesting dilemma, and people gave it thought before sitting. Some of the responses were quite philosophical, some in response to the immediate situation. They were often poetic, sometimes quite funny. People took the task seriously, and spoke quite eloquently about their lives. As they spoke, I wrote their words on a piece of piece of paper that was in front of me on the table. When they were finished, I proceeded to slowly eat the paper that contained their words. Often I would save certain sections that were particularly moving to me in order to eat them last, showing the speaker their words before I finished consuming the knowledge that they had shared with me.

This action was in direct response to one of the main purposes of a conference, which is to present papers and share information. I was curious to discover what other kinds of knowledge people would share in a more intimate conversation with a relative stranger.

Third Action: Rehearsing My Future
3:30 PM – 4:00 PM, Saturday

This action took place during the afternoon coffee break between panel sessions.

I sat cross-legged on the floor, blind-folded, with a lap full of white worms. The worms crawled up my body, through my hair, down my sleeves, under my skirt, and across the floor. Near the end, I very quietly began to hum Gluck’s aria from Orphée, “J’ai Perdue Mon Eurydice,” but so softly that it was unclear from where the sound was emanating. Blindfolded, I could only hear people’s responses. Footsteps approached, and some faltered, some stopped and some kept going without a hesitation. I know that a group gathered around me because I heard whispering, and felt fingers picking worms from my neck and hair.

This action was in response to the practice in conferences of squeezing as much as possible into a very limited time frame. Sessions are scheduled simultaneously and meetings are called during the times that people normally eat meals, as if we don’t really have bodies that grow tired or need feeding. This action was a reminder of our mortality.

 

I also had small cards printed, in English, German and French, which I handed out:

CAN THIS BE TRANSLATED?

Können Sie das übersetzen?

Pouvez-vous me traduire ceci?