Swapping Spit: Translation as Representation  


After the event:
Here's some of the responses we received to Laura Vena's presentation...

Laura asked collaborators to join her in fantastical linguistic play.

Etymaginaries are
mercurial word myths, forwards and backwards. produced by constellations of purple dust spots on the retina of the imagination, these notional creatures anxiously anticipate your polyinterpretations.

Some examples Laura shared:


Imbroglioronic N.: any oily liquid with a bitter flavor, esp. any such liquid prescribed as an emetic. Term coined by Cesare Musatti in 1943 to describe an abnormal personality compulsively given over to twisting lengths of her—more often, his—hair into knots. At the time, Musatti was in the employ / operating under the patronage of Adriano Olivetti, who had brought the pioneering psychoanalyst to Ivrea for the purpose of helping his engineers overcome a mysterious "block" that was impeding their development of the Divisumma electric abacus. Musatti's application of a placebo hair tonic in various clinical tests related to this case (the final diagnosis being that an imbroglioronic was suffering from a combination of acute hysteria, euraesthenia, and suicidal depression) is still a subject of medical debate to this day. Contributed by: Joe Milazzo


lufarcity soundtrack by Joe Milazzo


vandodacular the undulating function of the five bones of the sacrum [now fused] that allowed homosapiens’ ancestors to flick their tails1. 1 the movement also allows one to cast off his or her tail, which could help one escape from predators, who are either distracted by the wriggling detached tail, or left with only the tail while the rest of the body flees. tails cast in this manner generally grow back over time, unless evolution occurs.
by: Laura Vena


Swapping Spit: Translation as Representation
A Literary Conversation & Workshop

Curated/Organized by: STROPHE

Special Guests:
Jen Hofer
Laura Vena
Hillary Mushkin
Tanya Rubbak
& YOU.

7:00pm Saturday, April 4th, 2009
Ave 50 Studio
131 N. Avenue 50
Highland Park (LA), CA

Every work of art is an act of translation1. Whether done consciously or unconsciously, all artists pull from the cultural phenomena around them, borrowing, blending, and bleeding the residue into new creative responses. In this way, it can be said that writing is an act of swapping spit—every author is in intimate conversation with other artists of various métiers and their works, past, present, and future.

As Jorge Luis Borges writes, a book (or any work of art) “is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations.” When cultural phenomena is translated, transferred, re-represented, or remembered, how are these axes mediated by their new form? Here, we look at translation, not only as a replacement of words from one language to the next, but as a larger, more complex system of interconnected representations and narratives.

1 representation, appropriation, transmutation, expression

Jen Hofer is a poet, translator, interpreter, teacher, knitter, and urban cyclist. Her recent and forthcoming poem sequences and translations are available through a range of autonomous small presses including: Atelos, Counterpath Press, Dusie Boooks, Kenning Editions, Palm Press, and Ponzipo. She also makes small books by hand at her kitchen table in Cypress Park.

Laura Vena is a writer, teacher, translator, and photographer whose work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, the O.C. Weekly, Chronometry and out of nothing. Laura is concerned with both the aesthetic and ethical considerations of translation, with what it means to approach an other, what it means to occupy a space in between, what it means to give an accurate representation, and what it means to listen.

Hillary Mushkin is a Los Angeles based artist focusing on landscape and US national identity. Her drawings, installations and media art can be humorous and absurd while tackling serious issues. Her projects have been exhibited at the Freud Museum (London) and the Getty Museum. Her newest drawings feature cute kids and gilded neoclassical symbols of power.

Tanya Rubbak is a graphic designer who currently resides in Echo Park, Los Angeles. She believes in graphic design as an art of fiction and book form as structure for visual narrative. She teaches book design and typography, works on her own books, co-runs a women's reading salon and makes freelance design work for arts and culture clients.

collaborative work by Jen Hofer and Hillary Mushkin


Avenue 50 Studio, Inc. is an arts presentation organization grounded in Latin@ Chican@ culture. Their monthly shows principally exhibit artists of color who have not been represented in mainstream galleries. Avenue 50 Studio seeks to build bridges of cultural understanding through artistic expressions. Please visit and support this cool space:



Etymology After The Fact  


... and please feel free to keep the conversation going.

From: http://www.etymonline.com

c.1300, "malformed animal, creature afflicted with a birth defect," from O.Fr. monstre, from L. monstrum "monster, monstrosity, omen, portent, sign," from root of monere "warn" (see monitor). Abnormal or prodigious animals were regarded as signs or omens of impending evil. Extended c.1385 to imaginary animals composed of parts of creatures (centaur, griffin, etc.). Meaning "animal of vast size" is from 1530; sense of "person of inhuman cruelty or wickedness" is from 1556. In O.E., the monster Grendel was an aglæca, a word related to aglæc "calamity, terror, distress, oppression."

c.1225, from O.Fr. cite, in medieval usage a cathedral town, but orig. meaning any settlement, regardless of size (distinction from town is 14c., though in Eng. it always seems to have ranked above borough), from earlier citet, from L. civitatem (nom. civitas) orig. "citizenship, community of citizens," from civis "townsman," from PIE base *kei- "to lie, homestead." The L. word for "city" was urbs, but a resident was civis. Civitas seems to have replaced urbs as Rome (the ultimate urbs) lost its prestige. City hall first recorded 1675; city slicker first recorded 1924 (see slick); both Amer.Eng. Inner city first attested 1968.


An Unforgivable Bibliography For THE CITY AS MONSTER  


Berger, Alan. Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. [More info]

Lynch, Kevin. The Image Of The City. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960. [More info]

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Project For A Revolution In New York. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Grove Press, 1976. [More info]

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Topology Of A Phantom City. Trans. J. A. Underwood. New York: Grove Press, 1977. [More info]

Sennett, Richard. The Conscience Of The Eye: The Design And Social Life Of Cities. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. [More info]

Žižek, Slavoj. Organs Without Bodies: Deleuze And Consequences. New York: Routledge, 2004. [More info]