Untranslatables 不可言喻

Fred Dervin 文德


According to French philosopher Barbara Cassin, an untranslatable is not a word that cannotbe translated but a word that deserves to be translated again and again. Often when we wantto create difference and some kind of a gap between us as people from different ‘cultures’we might claim that some words from our language cannot be translated into otherlanguages. At times, this creates some (manufactured) characteristic of who we are thatmight place us above others. This is the case with one of the words that appears in thispainting, sisu. A Finnish word, sisu is often said to be a typical characteristic of Finnish people– resilience, perseverance in English. It often serves the purpose of placing some kind of wallbetween us and them and, in few cases, to discriminate against others – as if saying: only wehave sisu, resilience. However, in different languages, there are many potential equivalentsto this Finnish untranslatable. These are the other terms appearing in the painting (e.g.cojonesin Spanish; sumud in Arabic…). I created this landscape in two parts: the front is meantto symbolize racing tracks where the untranslatables compete for difference and (maybe)superiority; the back is yet another mountainous background which looks unattainable,unreachable. My assumption is that by the end of the tracks, if these words encounter insilence, leaving space for confronting and negotiating meanings and connotations, they willcome together and succeed in climbing together in silence (again) the rugged mountainswhich remind us by their grandeur of how small we are as beings. Although difference oftenleads us to noise (“my difference makes me better because…”; “your difference does notallow you to…”), coming together quietly around apparent difference can help us be merehumans who struggle for the same things and who share the same aspirations.

根据法国哲学家Barbara Cassin的说法,不可翻译的词不是不能翻译的词,而是值得反复翻译的词。通常,当我们想在来自不同“文化”的人之间创造差异和某种差距时,我们可能会声称我们语言中的一些单词无法翻译成其他语言。有时,这会创造出我们的某些(人为的)特征,可能会使我们凌驾于他人之上。这幅画中出现的一个词就是这样,sisu。作为一个芬兰语单词,sisu通常被认为是芬兰人的典型特征——在英语中是坚韧、毅力。它的目的往往是在我们和他们之间设置某种屏障,在极少数情况下,歧视他人——就好像在说:只有我们有韧性。然而,在不同的语言中,这种芬兰语不可翻译的语言有许多潜在的等价物。这些是画中出现的其他术语(例如西班牙语中的cojones;阿拉伯语中的sumud…)。我将这一景观分为两个部分:正面是卑鄙的,象征着不可翻译的人争夺差异和(也许)优势的赛道;背面是另一个山的背景,看起来遥不可及。我的假设是,到了轨道的尽头,如果这些词遇到了内在的东西,为直面和协商意义和内涵留下了空间,它们就会走到一起,并成功地(再次)在寂静中一起攀登崎岖的山脉,这些山脉以它们的壮丽提醒我们,作为一个生命,我们是多么渺小。尽管差异经常会让我们产生噪音(“我的差异让我变得更好,因为……”;“你的差异不允许你……”),但围绕明显的差异安静地走到一起,可以帮助我们成为为同样的事情而奋斗、有着相同愿望的人类。

BIODATA - 艺术家简介

A renowned scholar in the field of intercultural communication and education, Fred Dervin (Chinese name: 文德 Wende) is also an artist. He holds two PhDs (Sorbonne University in Paris and University of Turku, Finland), is a full professor and PhD supervisor at the University of Helsinki, Finland.  Dervin also holds several distinguished and visiting professorships in Australia, Canada, China, Luxembourg, Malaysia and Sweden, as well as in other Finnish universities. Dervin has published internationally on questions of identity, interculturality and mobility/migration (over 150 articles and 80 books). His interest in art began when he was a teenager and has continued to grow over the decades. Over the past decade, he has produced artworks in China and Finland to showcase his scientific ideas. His commitment to the arts has also influenced his personal research (e.g. the benefits of arts education for intercultural communication). For decades he has collected and specialized in Finnish art from the mid-20th century and since 2015 he has been actively involved in producing his own art in relation to his research work. In his 2022 book entitled Interculturality in Fragments: A Reflexive Approach (Springer), he included 10 of his works of art to stimulate his readers to think beyond words about intercultural communication and education. He is just about to publish a book on art and interculturality in education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023).

Dervin is interested in the complexity of depicting faces in his art work by using different techniques. Interestingly, the Finnish word "face", "kasvot", always appears in the plural, which piqued his curiosity about the human face. This interest also comes from his scientific research on identity and intercultural communication, as well as his experience of living in different parts of the world.