jessica hickie-kallenbach in تماس with niloofar nedaei



The first was breathing. The second was pictured. The last was sound.

My right hand can place itself into my left hand. My right hand can make gestures and my left hand can listen. The further practical consequences would not be those of consolation. I find brokenness in my brokenness. Everything subjective and inside the self is being projected out into the world, objects and events forming complex chains of meaning. This conveniently proves the damage: A stubborn logic.

There’s a certain surface tension: I see myself falling through the water knowing that it is finite. There is a water-bed beneath it all: splayed limbs naturally act as traction, and also allow me to smoothly swarm, and move through. A clear sediment curls in to the flat of one’s stomach and writes itself into the hair on back of one’s neck. Constantly (or consistently) in a state of drowning, or breathing in some foreign liquid. Unstable lungs fill with screaming ache, but an endless ability to house this liquid. This is falling, or floating, without ground. A relational experience: falling while knowing there’s nothing to fall towards negates the feeling of falling.

Being translated into yourself, and back again, and forth. As in, an incompleteness.

That we sometimes say we translate our inner thoughts and feelings suggests that they are spoken by someone or something other than us, in another language, and subject to other laws of existence, as a gases may differ from solids. Things happen concurrently at a near-ish distance. Memories, like the body, have an inside-and-outside, skin as well as insides.

Placing pencil to paper in a few strokes:

Still I can’t see myself.

I still can’t see myself.

I can’t still see myself.

I can’t see my still self.

I can’t see myself still.

In the everyday, we see translation as the process of imperceptibility passing through from one language to another: a set of terms, sets of information rolling from two tongues—not unlike the stacking of glasses, it is a notion built in transparency. It is a process without a beginning, or an end, however. There is no moment in history, or otherwise, where an identity or culture is self-regulated, self sufficient in its own conception, unrelated to anything out of itself or it’s own boundaries. Indeed, we shouldn’t think of cultures as borne of no outside intrusion, nor should we with identities, or texts. Every text has a before-text, and every identity has pre-identity. This is not an exploration of translation in terms of the rendering of ideas authoritatively, and with authenticity (afixed): translation is mediation between two already constituting worlds. There can never be a perfect translation, and there is no such thing.

Immaculate conception is romanticised, and making does not begin cleanly: we are in a world in which emulation or copying or translating ideas is inherent. Creating is acting on that which already exists; it is the act of moving from one space to another and the creating is the movement. It’s not that you, or I, have never thought or said or wanted or conceived or procured something that has never been produced before. It’s not a pure start, and it’s not a pure finish: every translation creates another.

We come to understand the impossibility of transparency; translucency; the self and the other can never truly translate or even know each other. Self and other are exposed as separate rooms.

I recall, or remember, being like, two-years-old and sitting amongst my family. My whiteness is abstracted by the knowledge of its construction. The mixed-raceness of my brothers’ is disturbed by the fact that they’ve grown up apart from their paternal family, away from their blackness and the possibility of aligning their curly hair with anyone apart from each other. I remember watching my mother attempting to brush out their hair and their screaming objection. Movements of misrecognition.

I remember being like, fourteen-years-old and talking with my legs up, in the car, with my knees up and chin tucked between them—talking to my big brother about my perception of his marginalisation, and his adamant denial of all of it. I remember being frustrated. I know that I tried to equate it to something—about the experience of being a woman on the street, and his subsequent denial of girls being sexualised-by-proxy, and also that being a negative thing. These were two experiences he didn’t understand, despite the way they correlated, and I feared he’d internalised things he’d been spoonfed, and I don’t think that’s presumptuous. Given the choice between whiteness and blackness, how do you choose, when even a child knows the hierarchal structures that decision presents? Mixed-race identities dissipate when facing the integral lie of one-or-the-other.

Anyway, excess silently dribbles out and we are left with the untranslatable. To focus on that which is untranslatable, or lost in translation, is not to focus on what is lost but to acknowledge from the start the impossibilities and limits of translation: that which is left over. That which is lost in translation, or caught up in the limits. The left behind bits are unvoiceable, to be viewed in the reflection of a word, or gloss of an image, the smallness of gesture, and without, heard in silences. We are defined just as much by what we are as by what we are not.

The hand touched the hand.

A hand struck a chord.

The weight of water is dependent on its temperature.

The boat sank with all the weight.

The image functioned mimetically.

That which constitutes a boat is in constant flux.

The image depicted a line.

The bodies decided.

The tiles were stacked.

The object was commodified.

Space was taken up.

The privilege was nullified by the goodness of intention.

The coffee let off steam.

A girl screamed and cried.

The words all together sounded better.

The point was lost.