Global Intelligence files

2014

Exercises in style of the everyday are an artistic exploration of language and translating- interpretation in the age of software mediated information. As an homage to Raymond Queneau, these exercises take the form of the children's game Chinese whispers, retranslating the same content through multiple languages, eventually returning to the original one, to find the meaning in an altered, sometimes unrecognizable state. Only, instead of human ear-to-ear retelling, the content is taken through the widely spread Google Translate service. Using this common algorithmic way of translating, the work questions the ever more common relying on technology and techno-positivist belief in a computerized substitution of every human task on an example of a precise and delicate matter that the human language is.

Google Translate is a tool that has growing usage, sparking subtle semantic confusion among business correspondence, journalism, and everyday life around the world. The content that is retranslated and reinterpreted is taken from excerpts of the hundreds of e-mails of the intelligence company STRAFTOR Wikileaks had released in the past few years. Apparently STRATFOR has been Google Translating large amounts of data, while investigating confidential information of interest to their clients in the East and Middle East.

Exercises in style bring this method a step forward and continue translating content that is of interest, observing the gradual in-between steps in the process of loosing meaning.

The mistranslations that occur through the process of retranslation are inevitable in a hyperbolic, erasable but constant production of content. They are the literal representation of a communication gap, noise that arises through the constant exchange of content (words, information, knowledge) and rise of translation applications, that can be further carried via Chinese whispers more through a rhizomatic structure than a linear one.