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Translation or Transcreation in Art

Art today is one more example of the global panorama that defines our period. The undeniable internationalization of the majority of works of art led me to do some research on the role that our profession plays in the field.

The title of a work is a linguistic representation that is entirely conditioned by its expressive reference. This means that translators not only have to interpret the language itself, but also the shapes, colors, images, etc., represented in the work. This is why translation is so conditioned in several senses, such as the limited space that on occasions is given to the translation of the title or how to reflect as faithfully as possible the intention of the work’s author with the title that he or she gave to it. It might be a title that is completely coherent with what the work shows, or perhaps it lacks this reciprocity in an attempt to draw the spectator’s attention. Furthermore, the author’s reality at the moment they created the work and what the originally intended audience was have to be seriously considered, since the different realities, cultures, or simply ages can change the meaning of a work.

Nevertheless, there is a clear difference in today’s trends for translations of this type.

The titles of ancient works are not normally open to reinterpretation, especially those of the most famous authors who marked a before and after in the history of art. For the rest, there are different options, from maintaining the original language for commercial or cultural purposes or simply due to the author’s preference; translating the title, which is normally required for art publications, text books, or exhibitions sponsored by artistic foundations with a specific policy regarding translation of titles; and lastly, the current trend for artists to publish their work with a title in English, perhaps because it is the clearest language for communication in the field, and this gives rise to the debate on whether or not it is suitable to translate these works to give them access to a wider audience that is not familiar with the language and that, as a result, would feel discriminated against when sharing the artistic experience.

I think that it’s a topic that is quite interesting once once you start thinking about how correct it is to translate expressive works of art, how useful is the translation? Is any translator capable of completely and faithfully reflecting the author’s intention for the audience?

This theoretical backdrop leads us to think not only of translation per se, but also of a term that is well-known within the circles of translation of works of art: transcreation. This term seeks to lump together the task of expressing a meaning in a different language and transmitting a creative message to another culture, making the translator here a recreater as well.

Beyond any debate, what is still true is how important the job of a translator is in the globalized world we live in today where intercultural communication and the intersection of cultures grows each day. Translators, therefore, cannot limit themselves to the translation of words, but translations also of cultural memes.