The commitment of artists Giuliana Racco and Matteo Guidi in studying the dynamics of closed structures and how individuals and groups, who are subjected to these conditions, strive to overcome constraints dismantles the veneration of Robinson Crusoe’s Tagalog translation of suffering and deprivation. Here, Racco and Guidi’s contemplative approach to the molecular strike of quotidian resistance complicates the limited characterization of human condition and “bearing suffering” in both Spanish and Tagalog translations. Ironically, the artists’ contribution intimates the perceived disparity between extractive colonialism and postfordist fragmentation in the formation of suffering.
In creating histories of abundance for cultural and community memory, Megan Michalak’s “public invitation[s]” are practices of anticipation—and therefore, futural translations. As translation can only conceive itself retroactively, Michalak produces historiographical abrasions that paradoxically convert systems of violence and exploitation into the coordinates of the everyday. Michalak’s multiplication of constraints deflects the engagement to subjects of violence, in which their unintelligible responses, such as strength of the will emphasized in Ang Bagong Robinson, invisible to the colonial gaze appear as strategies of resistance and hardly performances of passivity and victimization.
The quirky and fantastical auto-didacticism of Christina Schultz approximates the gap between invention, intervention and difficulty. The artist’s collaborative approach shares a kinship with notions of help explored in Tuason’s translation of Robinson Crusoe which both insist the importance of social existence and relations in solving difficulties. In contrast to the Tagalog translation’s coterminous use of help with endurance and good virtues, Schultz’s disposal of “helping hands” demands a cooperation that leads to subversion of relationships and continuation of learning. It inverts, or at least suspends, the possible complicity of collaboration, introducing tactical truth-telling and careful risk-taking in working together.
Mario Santamaria, on the other hand, consigns virtuality into a political position. The artist’s rendition of contexts into a plane of indeterminacy enables the double contamination of virtuality in the faculties of the translator and author. Like indigenous translations of Western texts, the virtualities of receptors and actors of cultural transformation, such as translation, release the knowledge system into a realm prone to conflict. Santamaria’s techniques of appropriation and assemblage layer resistance to conflicts on the staging of conflict as an interface. This interface as a contact zone resembles the field of translation as a territory for the struggle of (un)making and determining meanings.
Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts and Contaminations, a fictional institution that mimics the fiction of European Enlightenment’s and capitalist modernity’s transformation, traces the archaeology of turns and omissions in translation, then archives the ongoing and futural translations of artistic impulses to reconfigure discursively a new constellation of pedagogies. Akin to lightning, the trans-historical figuration of Robinson converts the assumption of a universal political economy into conceptions of constraint, conflict and contamination. Ultimately, Lightning Studies reimagines the codified discussion of exploitation and liberation, dislodging the positivism of technical development and anthropogenic dominance clogged in the arteries of pedagogical infrastructures.
*Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts, and Contaminations is indebted to the seminal work and thinking of scholar and activist Ramon Guillermo on translation. Guiding the formation of the proposal is Guillermo's Themes of Invention, Help, and Will: Joachim Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere in Tagalog and Bahasa Melayu Translations (2014).
Image: Nitrogen Cycle.