Issue 16

An Introduction to TRANSCRIPTIONS


Transcription is the process of bringing thoughts, sound or data into the written form. In a way, it is the very base of arts writing – the notation of experience, and its attendant thoughts, sparks and emotions. But writing about the arts is not as straightforward a process as this common definition suggests. To fully represent a work of art, it is not enough to simply describe its physicality – there is also a need to convey something of its phenomenology. In this effort to represent the non-material, arts writing as transcription might actually be closer to the meaning of the word as it used in music; where it invokes the complexity of arranging music intended for one instrument, into a composition for another. For the experience to remain the same, despite the new language, the spirit, tone and tune of the original has to find its way there.  

In terms of writing, this is maybe best put by the critic and poet John Berger, who wrote of the act as being something deeper and more general than the task of simply stringing words together. He spoke of translation (or transcription, in this case) as not being binary, between one form of communication to another, but triangular, in which what lies behind the original text must also be addressed. In his words, when moving from one form of communication to another ‘we gather up what we have found there and take this quivering almost wordless ‘thing’ and place it behind the language into which it needs to be translated’.

And so, TRANSCRIPTIONS, the sixteenth issue of fine print, is interested in the how that ‘thing’—the experience of a work of art—might be placed behind the varied forms of communication we can interpret; from the visual to the written, from the spoken to the performed.

A series of responses to the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia performed live Friday 7 September, 2018, by Bridget Currie (SA), Roy Ananda (SA), Alice Clanachan (SA), Kate Power (SA), Ali Gumillya Baker (SA), Grace Marlow (SA), and Monte Masi (SA).