Introduction

Elke aus dem Moore, Denise Helene Sumi, Lara Treffeisen — Mrz 8, 2021

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Introduction

Edited by Elke aus dem Moore. With contributions by Faduma Abukar, Patrizia Bach, Regina Dürig, Mica Cabildo, Vinicius Jatobá, Simar Preet Kaur, Giuliana Kiersz, Dong Li, Edith Lázár, Alexander Manuiloff, Viktoria Morasch, Abukar Mursal, Haneen Naamneh, Enos Nyamor, Prasanna Oommen, Raqs Media Collective, Vipul Rikhi, Laura Romano, Cássio Diniz Santiago, Nishant Shah, Alkistis Thomidou, Natasha Tontey, Jérôme Toussaint, Wojtek Ziemilski. With and introduction by Kübra Gümüşay. Co-Published by Edition Solitude and Archive Books, March 2021. Design by beton.studio, Vienna

Kindergarten, Wanderlust, Leitmotif, and Zeitgeist are just a few examples of more than eighty German terms that have been incorporated into the English vocabulary without a translation. A large swathe of humanity has currently »adopted« English as a world language. This leads not only to sometimes crude generalizations and simplifications of language and forms of expression, but also creates new forms of language and understanding. Our language is constantly changing, continuously being expanded. By adding new words to our vocabulary, we become familiar with attitudes and cultural practices, many of which were previously unknown to us. This book proposes a new vocabulary of terms that remain untranslated in their original language. These are words that represent not only a particular canon, but also cultural practices, attitudes, and value systems. Terms are presented that broaden perspectives, facilitate new perspectives, and thus enrich collective thinking. As an interconnected planetary community, acquainting ourselves with concepts familiar to other cultures is essential. In her contribution to the Shared Vocabulary, Simar Preet Kaur, a former Solitude fellow and author, writes:

Given the awkward consequences of individualism in our hands, a vocabulary for a transformative future would have to lean toward practices that address the species as a whole. Words of inclusion that acknowledge our interconnectedness. Is there a way that langar, as a practice of sharing – and daring, especially in these agitated times – can be expanded with its inherent generosity into a more accessible language?1

The terms of the Shared Vocabulary are united by their transformative potential. They are meaningful and relevant for imagining new and peacefull interactions with each other. The terms included here convey strategies designed to help readers to perceive the world as radically open and inclusive. In sharing attitudes, value systems, impressions, and observations by the authors, the publication reinforces the idea that a Shared Vocabulary can aid us in navigating »collectively.« In the process, the individual contributions are linked and unified by a sense of solidarity and community. This finds expression in terms such as langar, bayanihan, gostopriemstvo, and mapalus. Juogi, sahaja, cocok, or axé constitute religious or spiritual practices that are based on a cosmological understanding of the world; a sense of community that far exceeds the linguistic, and also integrates nonverbal forms of cohabitation within our processes of thought and emotion, and within our actions. For instance, in its contribution Anta(h)shira, the artist collective Raqs Media Collective points out that the social body (and its languages) unites forms of knowledge that do not arise exclusively from our cognitive canon of knowledge, but also encompass emotional and physical aspects:

We know it when we know it because we know it; in our veins, in our guts, in our bones. And then we never know it alone.2

LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE3

Language can be familiar, can feel like home. Like a favorite dish from our childhood, the »taste« of our native language rolling over our tongue connects us immediately to our roots. We live in a globalized present in which many people use more than one language, and in which questions of nationality also ensure that the concept of the »mother tongue« is a political issue. Different languages express different aspects of our personality. In her book Sprache und Sein (Language and Being), Kübra Gümüşay, who also wrote the wonderful foreword to this publication, writes:

I feel in four languages. […] To me, Turkish is the language of love and melancholy. Arabic a mystical, spiritual melody. German the language of intellect and yearning. And English the language of freedom.4

Language is a tool with which we can reveal ourselves to our fellow human beings. However, language, or rather the absence of language, can also divide: The stamps of authority and cultural hegemony have been imposed through linguistic translation techniques and the transmission of speech. Words that are not only part of a particular vocabulary, but also constitute a belief system, continue to be partially denied, thus excluding whole world views and restricting individuals in their cultural practices. By contrast, the Shared Vocabulary presents an expanded cultural and etymological understanding within the framework of cultural and linguistic studies sensitive to the context of particular words. This publication seeks to make global knowledge systems visible, while boosting the accessibility of valuable everyday practices.

It seemed important to us to reflect on the specificity of language(s); thus, in his contribution on 信XIN – the Chinese translation principle of authenticity – Dong Li reflects on the problem of untranslatability per se. In it, he refers to Paul Ricoeur, who describes the act of translating as a »work of mourning« and a »work of remembering. «5 According to Ricoeur, this idea is based on the »linguistic hospitability« of offering a new home to a foreign language – while simultaneously giving expression to a deep appreciation of language and its essence. It is this appreciation of linguistic and cultural translation that we seek to express in this book.

Learning a new language is like falling in love! Acquainting ourselves with the unknown broadens our perspectives and horizons and allows something new to blossom within us, creating fertile ground where transformations can take place.

TRANSFORMATION – 30 Years of Akademie Schloss Solitude

The publication mirrors the leitmotif used to mark the 30th anniversary of Akademie Schloss Solitude: Transformation. We consolidate the history of the international and transdisciplinary residency program by gathering collective knowledge and promoting transcultural exchange as we highlight valuable concepts of solidarity and sharing practices. The impetus for this publication included the article »Nyantrik as Commoning«6 by Antariksa, cofounder of the Indonesian KUNCI Cultural Studies Centre in Yogyakarta, which describes a practice of informal artistic education. Nyantrik means living together, working together and learning from each other through experience – both artisanal and spiritual. Knowledge only reaches perfection when it is shared, transmitted, and passed on.7 Concepts such as nyantrik (informal artistic education), gostopriemstvo (hospitality), or bayanihan (mutual support) are also part of the highly unique culture of artist residencies. As a place of community and communal creation, they form a microcosm that can transcend national borders and explore alternative possibilities of cohabitation. In his contribution on juogi, a term that describes the deep and multidimensional connection between the world of the living and that of the spirits, cultural journalist Enos Nyamor emphasizes the role of artist residencies and creative and cultural artists as translators and bridge builders between the worlds:

All musicians and storytellers, for that matter, are considered to be naturally endowed with juogi, for this is the source of their inspiration and what instructs them in their creative processes. When placed in context, an artist residency like Akademie Schloss Solitude would not only be a space for creatives, but also a place occupied by those possessing, or possessed by, juogi.8

The authors who share their concepts and stories with us come from different cultural backgrounds. However, they all belong to Akademie Schloss Solitude’s international network. They are former fellows, authors, thinkers, scientists, journalists, poets, and visual artists who are connected to cultural practices in different ways. This publication addresses pressing questions with which both artists and scientists alike are confronted: Which value systems are necessary to sustain our living conditions on this planet? What sort of collective wisdom and cultural practices can we learn from as a society? How can we translate this knowledge into sustainable and peaceful action? What can we learn from the Indonesian concept of gotong royong, an attitude of solidarity toward a fellow human being in need, or the Japanese tradition of shinrin yoku, bathing in and connecting with the forest? And how about Ubuntu, the African philosophy meaning »I am because we are« or the Japanese art of kintsugi, which cements broken porcelain with gold and thus reinterprets destruction as the potential for renewal?

INCOMPLETENESS INSTEAD OF LITERALNESS

Despite what the term »vocabulary« may imply, we do not intend to constrict the contributions in this publication into a rigid, even lexical form. Instead, we seek to retain the authors’ voices in all their heterogeneity. The result is a variety of forms of expression, ranging from poems to stories; from classic lexicon entries to drawings. Besides sharp social observations and well-founded research, the personal stories in particular possess the power to build bridges and convey ideas across linguistic and cultural barriers.

Implicit in this are invariably incompleteness and the mutable nature of language. Different interpretations, fluidity of individual terms, changes in attributions over time due to migration or altered circumstances result in opacity. This book makes no claim to completeness, but also allows space for the unstated – thus not every letter of the alphabet is represented with its own entry. Readers are invited to tolerate the gaps in between, and the irritations and ambivalences that arise as a result. They are an inevitable consequence of cohabitation.

Although it is by no means complete, this publication acts as a guide. It becomes clear that the relationship between language and cultural practice differs from culture to culture. Some cultures cultivate a closer attachment to their languages. Others use it as a tool. In some Asian societies, for example, language seems to be more connected to everyday life and rituals than it is in Europe. How does a living, working language differ from a descriptive, semiotic language?

Many of the terms gathered here are also witnesses to historical entanglements and forced – sometimes violent – migration. The term axé, for example, originated in West Africa and is now part of the vernacular in Brazil. The command ¡Tomá mate! is couched in the language of Argentina’s former Spanish colonial rulers. Wykombinovać, avos’, bezmetic, or oisiveté resist the existing social order and describe tactics and strategies for living (or surviving) in the face of communism’s restrictions or capitalism’s productivity diktat.

A SHARED VOCABULARY

According to Achille Mbembe, cosmopolitanism as a concept constitutes »the idea of a common world, a common humanity, a history and a future that is open to us only if we share it.«9 It is an invitation to transform this »common past into a shared past« and take responsibility for it, which Mbembe urges us to do. This understanding of a shared past working toward a common future leaves a nation-state mentality and the exploitation of human and natural resources by a few behind, leading instead toward more equitable distribution and mutual respect. A key resource of our thought and action, language can fundamentally express this mutual respect.

The notion of a Shared Vocabulary is undergirded by a critical gaze. In order not to lapse into universalism, there is a need to appreciate differences and individual terms and to recognize their contexts of origin. Coexistence takes the place of duality. The aim is not to create a universal lingua franca, a new Esperanto, but to offer an expanded and sensitive view of language and thus of the world, for relationships to each other can only arise through differences, however small.10

We would like to note that we have italicized words of non-English linguistic origin only when they first appear in the text and not later. Subsequently, they are sometimes used in upper case and sometimes in lower case in the continuous text, but always without italics.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all authors for their insightful contributions. Their writings help to develop a new linguistic self-conception that celebrates language in its diversity and distinctiveness. Thanks also go to the international network of more than 1,500 former fellows and individuals associated with the Akademie, and to all those who have contributed to making this book available in this innovative form. Many thanks to the entire team at Akademie Schloss Solitude. We would like to thank the funding institutions that made this publication possible, namely the Wüstenrot Stiftung and, in particular, the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts of the State of Baden-Württemberg, for their unwavering support. Many thanks to our co-publishers Archive Books, especially to Chiara Figone.Thanks are also due to Benjamin Buchegger for the inspiring collaboration in terms of the publication’s design, and to Harriet Rössger and Chloe Stead for their meticulous work in translation and editing respectively. We would also like to extend a very special thank you to Kimberly Bradley, one of the Akademie’s longest-standing and valued editors.

  1. Untranslatable Terms of Cultural Practices – A Shared Vocabulary, Elke aus dem Moore (Ed.), Edition Solitude, Stuttgart and Archive Books, Berlin, 2021, p. 118.

  2. Untranslatable Terms of Cultural Practices – A Shared Vocabulary, Elke aus dem Moore (Ed.), Edition Solitude, Stuttgart and Archive Books, Berlin, 2021, p.110.

  3. Jessica Martin and Elke aus dem Moore (eds.) Learn another language, fanzine.

  4. Kübra Gümüsay: Sprache und Sein, Berlin 2020, p.30.

  5. Untranslatable Terms of Cultural Practices – A Shared Vocabulary, Elke aus dem Moore (Ed.), Edition Solitude, Stuttgart and Archive Books, Berlin, 2021, p.184.

  6. Antariksa: »Nyantrik as Commoning,« in: Elke aus dem Moore (ed.), Politics of Sharing – On Collective Wisdom, ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), 2017, pp.26–31.

  7. This traditional method of knowledge transfer is still used in Indonesia today in a modified form.

  8. Untranslatable Terms of Cultural Practices – A Shared Vocabulary, Elke aus dem Moore (Ed.), Edition Solitude, Stuttgart and Archive Books, Berlin, 2021, p.24.

  9. Achille Mbembe: Ausgang aus der langen Nacht: Versuch über ein entkolonisiertes Afrika, Berlin 2016, p. 119.

  10. In his essay »Planetary Pursuits,« Shuddhabrata Sengupta refers to Édouard Glissant, who writes »If you forget the tiniest difference in the world, well, Relation is no longer Relation.« Shuddhabrata Sengupta: »Planetary Pursuits,« in: Hildegund Amanshauser and Kimberly Bradley (eds.), Navigating the Planetary, Vienna 2020, p.20.