Hand, Machine & Mind: Molly Springfield’s Translation

Affinities, Women Artists & Hybrid Forms

October 9th, 2012

It Is Almost That: A Collection of Image+Text Work by Women Artists and Writers forms a constellation of visionary, hybrid works by renowned as well as little-known, forgotten, and emerging artists and writers. These works—featured in their entirety or as substantial excerpts—are steeped in narrative play, suggestion or subversion, inviting readers to engage in unexpected and multiple modes of reading. Now that It Is Almost That is published (and you can read what Eileen Myles, Chris Kraus, and Nancy Princenthal have written about it as well as read the afterword), the Siglio blog makes a new space for further exploration into the works and their makers. In some cases, as with Molly Springfield’s Translation featured here, it extends the work by making available (in its entirety) a complementary piece, Notes for the Translation which was included in the It Is Almost That (Box) limited edition, and showing installation views of the entire project. This is the first post in a series on the writers featured in It Is Almost That.

 —Lisa Pearson, editor

On Molly Springfield’s Translation (excerpted in It Is Almost That)

Two years in the making, Translation is a set of twenty-eight drawings that render—or translate—the entire text of the first chapter of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time into drawings. For Translation Springfield pieced together the chapter with photocopies of pages from all of the existing English translations, shaping a sequence in which repetition and omission echo the transience of memory and point to the losses in translation. She then made photorealistic drawings in exacting detail and 1:1 correspondence of each photocopied book spread—including underlining, marginalia, and scribbles by previous owners, library patrons, and herself. This painstaking, laborious process calls attention to mechanical reproduction, the materiality of language, and the definition of originality. —LP

from Translation

Graphite on paper. Each 11 x 17.

Notes on Notes for the Translation

Notes for the Translation, my contribution to the It Is Almost That (Box) limited edition, is a compact incarnation of a site-specific work, A Brief Note on the Translation. Installed alongside Translation, it was intended to provide context and background for viewers, in the same way that an actual translator might provide an introduction to her readers. Selections from my Proust-related research and ephemera—which ranged from Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Task of the Translator,” to an article from The Onion, “Modern-Day Proust E-Mails Friend Six Times A Day,” to a madeleine cake recipe from the New York Times Magazine—were combined on a cork-line wall with drawings of the various drafts of an introduction I wrote for my translation.

Even if I’m only making drawings, I’m interested in the conceit of playing translator. Proust himself dedicated six years of his early career to translating John Ruskin’s The Bible of Amiens and Sesame and Lilies into French, even though he didn’t know English well and saw the work as drudgery. Though my translation only took two years, I identify with Proust’s view of his time with Ruskin as a necessary and almost spiritual act of penance. In order to fully inhabit Ruskin he had to endure an arduous task. And, maybe that process aided him in accessing what Proust’s narrator calls the “true book”—the one that resides inside each one of us. —Molly Springfield

Notes for the Translation

Graphite on paper and photocopies. Finished booklet, photocopied and saddle-stitched, 8.5 x 5.5.

Installation Views

Cork, graphite on paper, graphite and colored pencil on paper, photocopies, push pins and other ephemera.

Installation views from the Thomas Robertello Gallery, September 11 – October 17, 2009 and the Baltimore Museum of Art for which Springfield’s piece was a finalist for the 2009 Janet and Walter Sondheim Prize.

You can find more information about Molly Springfield’s work on her website.
All images here are copyrighted by Molly Springfield and reproduced with permission of the artist.

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