Rewritten In Translation

Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities by Larry Merrill

We had tickets to the MAG opening on Saturday night. We talked about going that afternoon and when the time came we completely spaced it out. So we tried backtracking and went over there yesterday. We started with Bill Viola’s video installation, a piece with four monitors, one at each quarter hour devoted to one of the four elements. Called “Martyrs,” Viola says: “The Greek word for martyr originally meant ‘witness.’” (where have I heard that word before?) In today’s world, the mass media turns us all into witnesses to the suffering of others. They also exemplify the human capacity to bear pain, hardship, and even death in order to remain faithful to their values, beliefs, and principles.” It is quite stunning if just a bit too precious.

The summer MAG show features three local artists, a substitution for the old Finger Lakes or Biennial shows. The Nancy Jurs exhibit is fun. The video was unnecessary but the dryer lint piece really drew us in. We took a break for lunch at the Brown Hound. I liked that place better when they had art from the MAG’s collection on the wall instead of all that dog stuff. I don’t find the cheap dog images all that appetizing but the Bistro Salad with Tofu was really nice. After lunch we spent some time with “The Surreal Visions of Josephine Tota.” Her work is small and it would have worked better if someone hadn’t put it in all those loud clunky frames. It was really hard to see the paintings. The white wall tags and signage didn’t help either. The woman has an interesting back story but let us see her work. Her paintings look better online. Larry Merrill’s “Wards of Time: Photographs of Antiquities” could never be as good as the real antiquities but they looked great mounted on the brown walls of the Lockhart Gallery. This poem on the wall in Merrill’s show really struck me. But how does a translator get something this old to rhyme in translation without just rewriting it?

Age is the heaviest burden man can bear,
Compound of disappointment, pain and care;
For when the mind’s experience comes at length,
It comes to mourn the body’s loss of strength.
Resign’d to ignorance all our better days,
Knowledge just ripens when the man decays;
One ray of light the closing eye receives,
And wisdom only takes what folly leaves.
– Pherecrates, about 430 BCE
Richard Cumberland, translation

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One Response to “Rewritten In Translation”

  1. Martin Edic Says:

    I work for a translation company. They do rewrite. With poetry and fiction they become, in a way, co-writers. It is an art.

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Martin Edic