Accepted Paper:

Translations, diasporic travels, and art world receptions in From Where to Where? by Annabel Daou  


Rania Jaber (University of East Anglia)

Paper short abstract:

The artwork From Where to Where? (2010) by Annabel Daou demonstrates translatability in the global art world context. Building on the questions asked by the work “where are you going?” and “where are you coming from?” this paper focuses on how artworks and representations by artists are not easily translatable in certain contexts

Paper long abstract:

This paper argues that the artwork From Where to Where? (2010) by Annabel Daou explores the limits of language nationalism in a multi-lingual contemporary art world, dominated by hegemonic cultural politics and the English language. This paper also examines experiences of place, travel, and migration as they are reported in the work and questions their translatability when it comes to art world contexts.

From Where to Where? was first shown in 2010 at the Cairo Biennale as part of the Arab-American group show Orienteering (2010). In examining the controversy that the exhibition generated in Cairo, it became evident that the reception of the work unexpectedly confirmed the actuality of the subject matter: in the context of restricted travel opportunities, the diasporic experiences of mobility are not easily “translated” to national, Arab-nationalist audiences, who misunderstood the work, rendering it untranslatable.

The title, which appears to anticipate the outcome of the work, is taken from an Arabic saying “min wayn la wayn.” The literal translation of the title from Arabic is “from where to where” but has an entirely different meaning in Arabic. In asking “where are you going? and “where are you coming from?”, the work’s voice thematises notions of origin, location, and travel in a range of languages.

Through a discussion of the artwork this paper demonstrates the untranslatability of artworks in specific art world contexts.

Panel P079
For an anthropology of the art world: Exploring institutions, actors and art works between circulation and territorialisation processes