With SOVA Students:
Robyn TOUCHIE Jessica VIENS Kirsty WELLS

05 | Over The Wire

series created by Charles Stankievech

April 22 - May 7, 2010

ODD Gallery

Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada



A TRANSLATION FROM ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER is the title of the exhibition designed by NYC artist LAWRENCE WEINER in partnership with the KIAC School of Visual Arts (SOVA) at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City, Yukon running from April 22 to May 7th, 2010.

As the fifth installment of the OVER THE WIRE series created by instructor Charles Stankievech, the exhibition presents the outcome of a project conceived by Weiner and interpreted by SOVA students.

A TRANSLATION FROM ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER is also the title of a seminal work conceived by Weiner in 1969—the same year that he travelled to Northern Canada with Lucy Lippard and NE Thing Co. Weiner’s particular selection of the translation work resonates in multiple dimensions. First, the text is an artwork in itself simply as a statement of an idea just as revalent today it was when he first conceived it. Second, the phrase could be seen as the quintessential Weiner work as it distills his entire studio practice into a terse phrase. In a recent conversation with the SOVA students Lawrence took this idea further and stated “That’s basically what all artists do: translate something into something.“ Traditionally, his infamous statement “1. The artist may make the work 2. The work maybe fabricated 3. The work need not be made” is the example representing a radical gesture first initiated by Weiner extending the conceptual drive of Minimalist Art. While it might express the more extreme spectrum of his work, A TRANSLATION OF ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER is really the mechanics behind his long running practice. Revisiting this piece again for a permanent installation in 1995/6, Weiner created a short prosaic text that expanded his understanding of translation to cover all forms of communication. So while he built sculptures with this phrase on it in several languages to be installed in a public square in Antwerp (see photo to the left), he suggests all of communication is a translation of intention. In an expanded version of the work specifically created for this OVER THE WIRE exhibition, Weiner further clarifies that translation is not just about verbal action, but also about the basic mechanics of objects. Returning as he usually does to the basic objectness of a “stone,” with this caveat (or what he calls cigarette box warning) Weiner comes full circle to his roots. Since Weiner considers his work in the tradition of sculpture, he sees nouns as objects, and thus his work is laden with words such as “STONE”, “WOOD”, “GRAPHITE” and other very tangible and sensual materials. His switch from pushing a chunk of stone from the Brooklyn Bridge around on a table to pushing the idea of stone around on a wall, and furthermore into the mind of the reader, is a direct form of translation itself: to translate the materiality of stone into the materiality of language using the word “stone.” At a time when Roland Barthes was writing the “Death of the Author,” Weiner’s ideas transferred authority from author to the reader, or translated the meaning of a text as defined by the artist to the creation of meaning by the reader.

Finally, A TRANSLATION FROM ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER. continues the energy from the master artist to the students. SOVA students were challenged to find a way to translate his ideas and influential practice into a project that they themselves authored. In other words, they needed to wrestle with tradition, and find a way to translate tradition into something new and unique. How to be a reader and a writer. How to be a student and an artist. Fortunately, Weiner’s generousity and careful phrasing resists the imperative and instead poses a process, a process that poses questions.

click on image above to see installation photos of the OVER THE WIRE exhibition    

LAWRENCE WEINER is hesitant to give directions and absolute about not using authoritative typefaces, and yet he still wants to “fuck up your whole life.” Born in the Bronx, NY in 1942, he proudly claims to have gone to NYC public schools. In the early 60s he journeyed across the States to California where he started using dynamite to create craters as a form of sculpture. He returned to New York with important shows at Seth Seigelaub’s gallery in the late 60s as one of the first Conceptual Artists who defined the genre through his denial of the art market’s fetishised objects. Situated in a dialogue of gestures, he famously stated in 1969 that his art “need not be built” to exist. During this period, Weiner refined his artistic practice into a strategy that confronted the public with concise textual statements painted on gallery walls and printed in paperback books. Since then his work has been stenciled on public venues, constructed into architectural elements, pressed into pins and tucked away in surprising nooks and crannies. Seen as a sculptor, his objects are nouns and his material is the world around him and language itself. While the work is boiled down to the essence of language, colour and layout, the phrases have multiple effects on the reader: “physical, interpersonal, metaphorical, spatial and even political.” (NY TIMES) Given this resonance, his work has transcended the heyday of Conceptual Art and still manages to find relevance in the now with shows recently presented at the Whitney Museum, NYC; Venice Biennale; Biennale San Paolo and the Power Plant, Toronto. No longer reliant on being radical and only challenging the conventions of aesthetics for the elite, his work has dispersed into the culture at large reaching a diverse audience around the world, including a couple generations of artists, designers and the passing flaneur.



Image credits:
Top: Correspondence, March 10, 2010
Bottom: A Translation From One Language to Another. (1969/96) Het Spui, Amsterdam, 1996.
Courtesy of the Moved Pictures Archive

Text + Poster Design: Charles Stankievech