Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Original Is Always Unfaithful To The Translation*

Fig. 1. Rose Farrell & George Parkin - Ladder (Pulleys, Dislocations and Counterweights, 1997 - 1998)

'In the critic's vocabulary, the word "precursor" is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotations of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.'

Jorge Luis Borges

* 'The original is unfaithful to the translation.' (Jorge Luis Borges)


'At this point [the end of the 1980s], we enter perhaps into that third and final moment in the history of appropriation, which we might call banality.

How is this banality to be characterised? As opposed to [the] first two moments of appropriation, it might mark the end of the idea of a history of Australian appropriation, either of writing a stylistic history of appropriation or of understanding the changes in the attitudes towards appropriation as a response to historical forces. Rather, this third stage of appropriation - the simultaneity of the same and the different, the original and the copy, the iconic and the iconoclastic - must be seen as the secret logic underlying the entire history of appropriation, what was at stake in both of those previous two periods. We pass from chronology or style to a logic of appropriation. But at the same time there is no longer anything at stake in appropriation. Even if it was only ever a fabricated or artificial distinction between those first two approaches, there were at least stylistic and emotional attachments to each of them: the first was activist, social, aggressive; the second aloof, personal, withdrawn. Now, neither of these attitudes would be possible any more. There is no longer an aesthetics or politics of appropriation, but only a rhetoric or logic: a logic that is unavoidable, irrefutable, final. We might say that the inescapabilty of appropriation has at least been grasped, the fact that it is the medium in which the practicing artist works; but there is no longer any stylistic or emotional way of making sense of this, no way of troping or transforming it artistically. Appropriation is no longer that which the artist attempts to master, but that which masters the artist; no longer a subject or theme within art, but that to which art itself is subject.'

Rex Butler