Art for Translation’s Sake

Deep in my heart of hearts, I believe that art is art because the artist says it is. And I really like that definition, because it means that anyone can do art as long as they believe they can. But there is so much art that stirs up emotions that I can’t explain and make me think that sometimes I wonder if that’s not the only definition of art.

When I first heard of and saw Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ art, I had no idea what they were all about. I went to the UMMA during welcome week and watched half of their exhibition there, Isn’t it the Greatest in the World? All I knew when I left was that it had made me feel troubled and a little bit sick. Now, some people would walk away from that and never look back, because the feeling wasn’t enjoyable, but when art is able to do that it intrigues me. It lodged itself in my brain and kept nagging me: Find out more about them and why they did this to you. But school was happening, and I didn’t have the time. When my Complit course revealed that they were going to spend almost a whole week on it, I was incredibly excited and used it as an excuse to learn as much as I could about them.

I took the opportunity to go to the Penny Stamps lecture that they did, though I had to leave most of the way through, and they did it again. I left thinking about the way I lived my life and wondering how hypocritical I could possibly be. But I also left thinking about what was being translated, thanks to the attention that 22 Ways brought to it: from their minds, to their language (which is Korean, although, Marc is American, so maybe it goes straight to English), to my language, to my mind and heart.

I had never thought of intellectual and emotional translation before. But it makes perfect sense. That is why art is a form of translation, as Heidi Kumao was talking about when she came to lecture. But she called it “translation from everyday experiences into art,” and I think it goes deeper than that. When people make art, most of the time, they are not purely translating an experience to a medium. Their mind comprehends the experience first, and then they translate it into art.

And the viewer translates it however they see fit. When I went back to the exhibit at the UMMA, after having looked at their website and seen the artists in person, the exhibit didn’t make me feel sick. It didn’t even make me think about the things I was probably supposed to think about. I thought about all the translation aspects of the piece, and how the room was set up, as opposed to the words on the screen. There’s something to be said for both experiences, but I think I may have enjoyed the first exposure to their work more. When it comes to art, I think I prefer the raw emotional translation that a piece instills in me, as opposed to the intellectual analysis that comes after. Nothing can ever replace that first raw emotional response. It’s my favorite part of the translation of art.

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