Art by Translation

Art by Translation is a research and exhibition program initiated by École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy and École Supérieure des Beaux Arts TALM Angers, directed by Maud Jacquin and Sébastien Pluot, founding directors and Jeff Guess, pedagogical director. It is supported by the French Ministry of Culture and collaborates with a host of international academic and art institutions. Organized in sessions dedicated to specific research themes, this itinerant program takes place at different sites in Europe and North America and develops artistic and curatorial projects, discursive events and publications in collaboration with museums, art schools and universities. In each context, research is enriched by the contributions of international artists, lecturers, doctoral and master’s students from different disciplines. Art by Translation is a postgraduate program that involves 4 selected artists and curators each year. They attend the program in its different international contexts. They contribute to the research, participate in seminars and workshops with students from the host cities and produce new works presented in the various Art by Translation exhibitions and events. Each session’s research focus is defined in such a way as to be disseminated across various disciplinary contexts (fine arts, dance, film, writing, art history and theory, architecture, design). For this first session, the research focuses on the processes and ideological stakes of translation in the arts. The research subjects for following years are defined as extensions or outgrowths of previously developed issues.

A research-centered and process-based model

This program considers the notion of process as a crucial feature for the production and diffusion of critical art and theory. As Mel Bochner has stated, the goal is “not to make art but to do art.” The art projects and research experimentations this program seeks to develop are based on a conception of artworks and exhibitions as generative. Research is conceived as a permanent process of translation and dissemination. Art by Translation thus incorporates a flexible approach allowing projects to develop organically in various contexts and in a variety of formats: artworks, architectural constructions, exhibitions, study sessions, workshops, symposia and publications with invited artists and lecturers. Its model aims to foster an experimental context for research and art practices. The discussions, debates, and collaborations that typically take place at the margins of exhibitions are expanded and engaged throughout the curatorial process, and materialized as part of the exhibition itself. In foregrounding research and upsetting the temporal limits of curatorial conventions, the program seeks to fill existing gaps in pedagogical and exhibition practices and to propose a model of collaboration among art schools, universities, and exhibition venues, with the involvement of artists, historians, theoreticians, and curators across many disciplines.

Program Features

The program tends to break with the conventional chronology of “research-exhibition-publication” and aims to reconfigure the boundaries between disciplines. Projects (exhibitions, artworks, texts) are not considered as final results but rather as stages in a process and points of departure for further elaborations. The program creates collaborative situations in which artists and curators produce both individual and collective projects. What is emphasized are the debates and ideas generated by the collaborative situations. Art by Translation produces an evolving research archive that grows and takes on different forms while adapting to different contexts. This archive serves as a basis for interpretation or reactivation rather than constituting an inactive memory of projects. This website presents these archives along with documentation and publications from various events and productions.

Research Theme

Research theme for the first session 2016-2018:

“The Processes and Ideological Stakes
of Translation in the Arts.”

Translation issues have been a central topic in the history of 20th century art. Various fields, such as linguistics and literature, psychoanalysis, philosophy, politics and technology, have engaged issues of translation. Much is at stake in the subject of translation for interactions between various art forms, for our ways of relating to the work of art, of interpretating, comprehending, and presenting art, and for its inclusion into art history. Ever since the Babelic myth of a unique and global language, and all the way up to the correspondence theories that paved the way for the dream of a universal language popular amongst the historical avant-garde, or the recent positivist ideology of an adequate translation allegedly offered by the algorithm, the fantasy of transparent communication has informed every era. At the opposite end from this “telepathic impulse", a different aesthetic and ethical stance has been based on the acknowledgment of inadequacy and discordance in the process of translation. As early as the beginning of the 19th century, philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher asserted that where transmission was concerned, incomprehension must be considered to be the rule and comprehension to be the exception. Nonetheless the greater part of aesthetic theories are still based on a hermeneutics of reception and signification. Yet since Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and later Jacques Derrida, new conceptions of our relation to the work of art have acknowledged untranslatablility and a fundamental disjunction between what one "says" and what one "means to say". “Doesn't disjunction open up the very possibility of otherness?" Derrida suggested, thus establishing a relation between aesthetic and ethical issues. The production and analysis of art do not exist outside of this relation. In various texts, Derrida uses the expression "double bind" to describe the fact that translation is at the same time necessary and impossible. This is a paradox that extends to the translation of an idea into its expression, to the transmission involved when one being addresses another, to the shifts from one medium or historical period to another. Translation issues enable us to analyze and differentiate the aesthetic and ideological stances underlying the history of art – for example, the striving for transparent communication of meaning by form. What is at stake in the positivist history of translatability between art and technology? How have artistic practices worked through this since the historical avant-garde? 20th Century critics frequently proclaimed that artists could no longer be considered the universal interpreters of some unattainable truth. Michel Foucault expressed the desirability of deposing the "authoritarian" figure of the artist, and establishing a new artistic constellation where the work of art would leave "spaces for possible subjects.” Following Foucault, Jacques Rancière identified situations in which the spectator "plays the part of a participating actor, who elaborates his/her own translations in order to appropriate history and turn it into a personal history". The research focus of the first session of Art by Translation will provide the opportunity to question the implications of such an "emancipated community" where subjects – artists, curators, critics, spectators - become "storytellers and translators".

Institutional Partners
Core partners
  • École Supérieure des Beaux Arts TALM Angers (ESBA TALM Angers)
  • École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts Paris-Cergy (ENSAPC)
  • CNEAI= Pantin
  • ESBA TALM Angers
  • ENSA Paris-Cergy
  • La Galerie, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Noisy-le-sec
  • Galerie Art & Essai, Université Rennes 2
  • Galerie Michèle Didier
New York, USA
  • Barnard College
  • Emily Harvey Foundation
  • The James Gallery, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY)
Montreal, Canada
  • Fonderie Darling
  • Centre Canadien d’Architecture (CCA)
Brussels, Belgium
  • Faculté d’Architecture La Cambre Horta, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Los Angeles, USA
  • California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
  • MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Lisbon/Porto, Portugal
  • AiR 351
  • Culturgest
AbT is supported by:
  • The French Ministry of Culture
  • The French Institute

Program directors:
  • Maud Jacquin
  • Sébastien Pluot
Pedagogical co-director:
  • Jeff Guess
  • A Constructed World (Jacqui Riva and Geoffrey Lowe)
  • Alexander Alberro
  • Diogo Alvim
  • Emily Apter
  • Félicia Atkinson
  • Thierry Bardini
  • Chloe Bass
  • Keren Benbenisty
  • Julien Bismuth
  • Loïc Blairon
  • Benjamin H. D. Buchloh
  • Bona-Lemercier
  • Sylvie Boulanger
  • Hugo Brégeau
  • Dieudonné Cartier
  • Anthony Carfello
  • Alejandro Cesarco
  • Jagna Ciuchta
  • Bertrand Clavez 
  • Tyler Coburn
  • Stephane Degoutin & Gwenola Wagon
  • Antoine Dufeu
  • Ken Ehrlich
  • Nicole Fournier
  • Katherine Carl
  • Peter Tracey Connor
  • Alessandro de Francesco
  • Jean-Pascal Flavien
  • Priscilla Fraser
  • Yona Friedman
  • Mark Geffriaud
  • Michel Giroud
  • Aurélie Godard
  • Ramiro Guerreiro
  • Jeff Guess
  • Hannah Higgins
  • Martin Howse
  • Maud Jacquin
  • Peter Jellitsch
  • David Joselit
  • Jonathon Keats
  • Ben Kinmont
  • Nicholas Knight
  • Alison Knowles
  • Edouardo Kohn
  • Silvia Kolbowski
  • Katarzyna Krakowiak
  • Mikko Kuorinki
  • Brian O’Keeffe
  • Lou-Maria Le Brusq
  • Myriam Lefkowitz
  • Marco Marini
  • Patrice Neirinck
  • Jenny Perlin
  • Aurélie Pétrel
  • Raphaël Pirenne
  • Sébastien Pluot
  • Julien Prévieux
  • Emanuele Quinz
  • Sébastien Remy​
  • Émilie Renard
  • Irene Revell
  • Julia Robinson
  • Janet Sarbanes
  • Ines Schraber
  • Joshua Schwebel
  • Yann Serandour
  • Daniela Silvestrin 
  • Trevor Stark
  • Vanessa Theodoropoulou​
  • Valantina Traïanova
  • Francisco Tropa
  • Fabien Vallos
  • Anthony Vidler
  • Nicole Woods
  • Christian Xatrec
  • Anne Zeitz
Postgraduate Participants 2017
  • Tyler Coburn (Artist)
  • Lou-Maria Le Bruscq (Artist)
  • Joshua Schwebel (Artist)
  • Daniela Silvestrin (Curator)

work in progress