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Vesuvius in Amsterdam

El Vesubio in Buenos Aires

Reading reflections with the artists.

Chapter One of Becket MWN and Aimée Zito Lema’s The Actress(es) an original essay, a conversation transcript and two film fragments, which focus in on the script (both the English and Spanish versions) that the duo shared in their Prelude’s collection of remnants. Starting from that “originary” text, the materials included here carefully consider the on-the-ground practicalities of moving from one language to another. In the process, they also conceptually spiral around the question, the problem, the poetics of translatability: the capacities of something to take form otherwise; the “not I” and “not someone else”; the “constituent imperfection”. These spirals move through the identity and body of the text as much as they do the identity and body of the character explored within it.

Reflection on Translation
An essay by Becket MWN notated by Aimée Zito Lema

In his reflection on the process of writing the script, Becket opens onto the space of translation between the page and the stage, considering how the dialectical negations explored by the character in the monologue are foundational to the status of the text itself – somewhere between the “not I” and the “not someone else”, the messy mutual constitutions of thought and being (“thinking is an embodied feeling but it is also a consequence of embodiment”) come to the fore, proposing “a form of thought [that] would proceed in the wake of form rather than by giving it”. As Zito Lema underlined in her reading of the essay: the script, like the character, enacts a certain “melancholy for embodiments it has not yet taken”.

On Translating the Script for ‘The Actress’
A conversation between Aimée and Camila Zito Lema notated by Becket MWN

As translator of script, Camila Zito Lema (CZL) spent much time getting inside the thinking process of Becket to unpack and “re-pack” the text across phonetic, colloquial and geopolitical systems – in the conversation, she reflects at length on her observations. An attention to identity construction and dialectical negation permeates her reflections; and, like Becket does in his essay, she moves fluidly back and forth between the identity of the text and that of the character. As Becket underlined with an emphatic squiggle in his reading of the conversation transcript: “That is what the text is about, a possibility. You are also everything you choose not to be, as we talked about before… That’s why it’s possible to make more than one translation.”

Vesuvius and el Vesubio
Film fragments from the raw footage

One way that visitors to the studio might understand the film fragments is as notations underscoring the geopolitical stakes of translation. The first clip shows the trained teen actress in Amsterdam standing on set with her director. She speaks to Becket, who explains from outside the film frame what Vesuvius is: a volcano in Italy. In the second clip, the untrained actress in Buenos Aires lays on the ground reciting the script. The voice of the director enters from outside the film frame, emphasizing the gravity of the lines being spoken. In the context of Argentina, as CZL explains in the conversation transcript, El Vesubio could never be anything other than the concentration camp from the period of the dictatorship. In another emphatic squiggle, Becket marks CZL’s words: “I could have added the word volcan before the word Vesubio and the ‘problem’ of interpretation would have been easily solved. To eliminate the ambiguity. [...] I don’t know, maybe now that I see it, it might have been a mistake of mine, but at the same time it gave us the chance to reflect on this...”.