Pasaje Rodríguez, across from the Grafógrafo Bookstore (Tijuana)
What happens in the space between languages, between minds, between distinct modes or moments of perception, different ways of understanding and articulating those perceptions? What is made possible in the many shifting spaces we inhabit as we move through an exchange or transfer of brain waves, sound waves, ideas carried by breath, without alighting too long in any one particular position?
I can’t imagine I need to explain my absence from the Jacket2 site, other than to myself, but just in case... I didn’t drop off the face of the earth (as those of you expecting a twice-weekly post might have thought—though I suspect “those of you” are really only me, and long ago I ceased actually expecting to meet my own expectations, much as I might yearn—however uslessly—to do so or feel irked—however unendingly—by not doing so), but I did cross the border between San Ysidro and Tijuana through a runoff tunnel (i.e. sewage culvert) underneath a binational (trinational if you also count the strip of no-man’s land between the two massive fences as a “nation”) border patrol access road. This past weekend, with my compañero in the world of language justice organizing, John Pluecker, I worked as an interpreter with Political Equator 3, the cross-border urban ecologies conference organized by Estudio Teddy Cruz.
Displacement. Chosen and unchosen migrations. Free and unfree trades. How displacement is also a kind of placement, an unfamiliar vantage point from which to renegotiate terms, terrains, parameters, possibilities. Translation is willing and willful displacement. In moving a word, phrase, line, sentence, stanza, paragraph, idea, framework from the space of one language to the space of another, something utterly transformed is created, and something that is still very deeply (though not essentially) the same as what it was to begin with (which was not immobile in the first place). Alchemy
In a conversation, Sesshu Foster recently referred to the space of translation as “no-man’s land.” I’d agree and also add the idea of “every person’s land,” in the sense that no one and everyone might belong there, or perhaps that the very concept of “belonging” no longer pertains—the question is one of moving through space, rather than claiming it. Of using the terms imposed upon us (as Adrián Esparza uses the typical Mexican blanket sold to tourists, for example) to subvert the intentions of their imposition. To unknit the weave that would bind us.
“Involuntary collages of the past,” to borrow a phrase Hugo García Manríquez (here reading at an Achiote Press event to celebrate 40 years of Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley) wrote me in a note. This P.S. is an update of the photos from my post titled “Excavations of Subsoil and Surface” with the actual photos Hugo intended to reference, which had somehow fused in his memory, into a single image of the pastor preaching while holding his baby.
...even when we believe we have freedom to use whatever words we wish to use, that we have the entire lexicon of English, at least those of us who are Anglophone, at our disposal, and are able to express ourselves in whatever ways we wish to (all of us who live in the so-called liberal democracies, that is), much of the language we work with is already preselected and limited, by fashion, by cultural norms—by systems that shape us such as gender and race—by what’s acceptable. By order, logic, and rationality. (M. NourbeSe Philip, from Zong!)