Discovered through translation…

For a while, as a cognitive psychologist, I’ve been working with my 2 artist colleagues to explore questions and trigger new thinking and conversations. They have introduced me to a different, arguably more visceral, language of drawing and making as a way of exploring and understanding the world. Outside the safety net of words, it often feels alien for me, uncomfortable and even crazy but insights emerge which I know I wouldn’t have encountered through my normal, more analytical, roots.

In the Autumn we had the privilege of meeting two South Koreans from the Science Walden Insititute at the Hothouse residency at Dartington Hall. We were fascinated by their Faecal Standard Money project capturing people’s faeces in their specially designed toilet and converting it into biofuel which is worth money and the people can be paid in kind for their natural excreted “waste”. What a wonderful challenge to our capitalistic models of value.

We, the Larks & Ravens would like to continue those conversations. Today, I tried to express that by asking Google to translate our wish into South Korean. I then attempted to draw by hand the (to me) alien script character by character. It was hard. It required intense concentration. Was I copying the shapes, the length of each line, the spacing accurately enough? Was I conveying the right meaning or had I just changed it inadvertently? Was I missing some subtlety of expression? Had I said something offensive or wrong or just difficult to understand? How distorted would my message be when it reached a native speaker? I don’t know.

And then I puzzled why we think we understand each other when we listen or read each other in English. We say it’s our shared or “native” language but to what extent is the meaning intended really shared? I certainly never attend as carefully and anxiously as I did with these unfamiliar characters? I usually think “that’s OK, I caught ‘the drift’ … but did I?

What can we, the Larks and Ravens, learn from sharing questions about value, money and Capitalism with those who speak to us in other tongues? What does it teach us about drawing as a language to be shared and understood by others?

(Original Translation: A desire to work with others who share similar questions but explore in different languages – drawing, words, music, making, doing..)


About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
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