The Invisible Translator

 A Matter of Perspective


Translation theorist Lawrence Venuti’s concept of the invisible translator is interpreted as a bust made of three layers of glass. A quote can be seen between the first two layers of glass and its translation between the last two. The result is a 3D effect with the words of the two languages intermingled, forcing the viewer to look at the work from different angles in order to read the separate texts. A matter of Perspective.

Bust by GTD Hoffmann, D-Schellerten
Photo by Jörg Michaelis, D-Donaueschingen

The text chosen for the bust is taken from the novel Wilmer lost (ISBN 978-3-9815140-0-1). The short form of Wilmer’s name is Will – a play on words that is picked up on throughout the novel. It involves the separation of body and mind, the translator being reduced to a tool, a body, through which something else is created – namely, the other language.

The other, however, is the translator as a whole – with all of his or her strengths and weaknesses. While the translator’s physical existence cannot be ignored, his or her mind and will – whether consciously or not – are not acknowledged to the same extent in everyday life.

A perspective that can only be changed by the viewer.

Can You Spot the Translator?

It’s all about crossing over – getting from one side of a river to the other. And it’s also a question of who will get whom across.
The same question will be asked again at the end of the exhibit in order to gauge whether or not the exhibit changes the visitor’s way of thinking.

Illustration von Reinhold Harwath, D-Freiburg

Children’s Shoes That Make
Their Mark


Every step taken with these shoes leaves behind a German and an English print, which the viewer can see in a soil-lined display case:
This is how I can experience the world,
beyond my own imagination.
Arthur Schopenhauer

Stundets of the School for Shoemakers, D-Pirmasens

The Same but Different

Carbonate (C) as matrix of all organic matter, all life. To be found in three modifications: diamond, graphit and fullerene. The same entirely changing through outer influence and time joined by a ring. A jewel that can be worn.

Fred Kassner

Goethe - Translating with Format

Can translators put themselves in the foreground? Where is their rightful place – in front of or behind the original author? Can translators equally be seen as original authors?
The starting point is the same, but then each line follows its own dynamics. The shape of the picture resembles the Star of David, which is interpreted as symbolizing the relationship between God and man; humankind received life from God and will return to God, and everything becomes one – the union of spirit, soul and matter.

The dichotomy of translation: it seems impossible to unite, yet it becomes One in its entirety.


Translating from the Inside Out

This collaborative effort created by 14 women from four countries is a translation of “love.” The handcrafted work of art features embroidery, an elaborate combination of materials, and a medley of distinctive definitions.

Liebe illustriert in ihrer Vollkommenheit und Reinheit: Etwas Verletzliches - gleich ob Frau, Mann oder Seele - eingehüllt und geschützt durch etwas, das bei ihrer Entstehung Disziplin, Ausdauer und Kreativität erforderte, um Unterschiedliches zum attraktiven Ganzen zu vereinen.

Just as the engine driving the car need not have any connection with the colour of the car, 
everything - thoughts, feelings, narratives - become clothed in words, then re-clothed. The 
energy of the thing being said or felt or expressed finds one set of clothing among many possible sets.

Prof. Dr. David Johnston 
School of Modern Languages, Queen´s University, Belfast

The World of Thought

A Cross Section of the Inner Workings of the Mind

(Essay to be translated into English)

An Intersemiotic Translation

Reinhold Harwath, D-Freiburg

Translation Memory


Translators work with a type of software that recalls texts that have previously been translated in order to use the translation again. This lowers the cost of translation and promotes consistency. Still, machines are not humans. Something as simple as a missing period can cause a machine not to see something as identical that a human would clearly recognize as such. 

Fuzzy match 

Translators Filling the Gaps

Translation software calculates the proportion of the translation that is ready to be used again. This series consists of three prints made to the logic of translation software resulting in segmented translator portraits, since the translator only plays an active role when parts of the text are missing. So how much of the translator is actually left to be seen?


The Mystery of the Whole

Translation as a three-way tango: the author, who demands authenticity from the translator and wants to exert influence; the translator, who is interested in coherent results; and the created work, the figure that has now been shaped by the translator and is escaping from this dispute.

The exhibit will present this relationship in the form of a puzzle – pieces that have to be put 
together. But as well as the pieces fit together, the transitions between the different pieces still result in a different picture.

The Translation 

A Crowd Sourcing Project

An empty book in which each visitor has the opportunity to translate one or more sentences from the novel Wilmer Lost. Typical translation resources and reference materials are available for consultation. Each writer’s name or pen name will be registered, and the result of this collaborative effort will be published upon completion.
So who will the new composition be attributable to? 

After the project is complete, the results will be published by the publishing house Nothing But Words, along with the list of authors.