Artivism as a Form of Urban Translation : An Indisciplinary Hypothesis Chapitre d’ouvrage - Décembre 2016

Myriam Suchet, Sarah Mekdjian

Myriam Suchet, Sarah Mekdjian, « Artivism as a Form of Urban Translation : An Indisciplinary Hypothesis  », in Sherry Simon (ed.), Speaking Memory. How Translation Shapes City Life, 2016. ISBN 978-0-7735-4789-6


Myriam Suchet and Sarah Mekdjian introduce practices of “artivism” as a way of challenging received ideas about the city and of revealing the potential of translation to show how meaning is created in the city. Forms of artivism (art + activism) in the urban environment call into question the very definition of translation. In a style that foregrounds their very processes of research, highlighting the advantages of strategic, perhaps temporary alliances among disciplines, Suchet and Mekdjian test vocabularies one against the other, in a way performing the act of translation as they define it : as a way to create new modes of speech that undermine the limits of naturalized language. The interval, the “battements” are defined as events in space that are disruptive. Here there is an explicit displacement in the meaning of translation itself – introduced not for its potential to effect the transfer of ideas from one space to another but rather to expose the spaces between languages, to expose the fictitious borders of language as such. The interval created by urban artivist translation must be understood, in both its temporal and spatial dimensions, as a disruptive event. By combining the sociological, urbanistic idea of the interstice with the stylistic, enunciative notion of the figural, Suchet and Mekdjian redefine translation as an interruption of discursive practices. Translation becomes a mode of critical thinking, with the goal of identifying urban practices that empower citizens to question their environment. Among the activities generated by this “translation hypothesis” is a project of city-mapping described by Mekdjian, which attempts to account for the experience and angle of vision of the refugees.

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