Understanding of Misunderstanding

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  • Title: Understanding of Misunderstanding: Embodying the Untranslatable in Art
  • Author(s): Utako Kanai
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Image
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Image
  • Keywords: The Untranslatable, Art, Embodiment, Spatiality, Visualization, Perception
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 2
  • Date: April 03, 2017
  • ISSN: 2154-8560 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2154-8579 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v08i02/57-67
  • Citation: Kanai, Utako. 2017. "Understanding of Misunderstanding: Embodying the Untranslatable in Art." The International Journal of the Image 8 (2): 57-67. doi:10.18848/2154-8560/CGP/v08i02/57-67.
  • Extent: 11 pages

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This article discusses the early development of my PhD research project that is concerned with the untranslatable, which I identify as that which, in art, resists translation into everyday language. Prompted by my observation of the untranslatable in my previous transcultural art project and the everyday visual phenomena, the project has been informed by Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Translator’s Task,” Derrida’s interpretation of this essay, and other philosophical and theoretical writings. With an attempt to develop concepts (e.g., distance and shadow) that can help us in thinking about the untranslatable in art, this article discusses how its presence can be embodied within an installation artwork that allows for new meanings to enter through audiences’ engagement with the artwork. In examining my own art-making, I argue that an artwork can operate as a unique language that can articulate the untranslatable, in turn liberating both artists and audiences from a mere exchange of meanings. In the spatiality of the distance in-between, translational processes in art can occur through certain manners; they grow to intend “pure language.” The remainders of these processes convey a sense of beauty and ambiguity, which can be considered an artistic medium; it is immaterial yet able to be experienced. The appearance of such an artwork continues to shift in various degrees and to open possibilities for new understandings.