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More Than Words: Translation and Interpretation


Gregory Rabassa, revered translator of Gabriel García Márquez, wrote that ‘every act of communication is an act of translation.’ Even when speaking the same tongue, we so often get our wires crossed. It’s not just words but gestures, tone, cultural context and, of course, silence that convey meaning – intentionally or otherwise. Translation between languages is at once fraught (Umberto Eco called it ‘the art of failure’) and fundamental for cultural understanding and, probably, human survival.

We’re bringing together some brilliant translators for a discussion that focuses on translation in and beyond the arts. Our panellists including Nobuko Aiso and Kylie Bracknell, will discuss the mysterious processes – as well as the perceived and inevitable barriers – of their work. Who gets translated and why? What are some specific challenges of translation in the arts? How does a translator’s own experience (of life and language) infuse their work?

At this Asia TOPA event at the Wheeler Centre, hosted by Stephen Armstrong, we’ll discuss the possibilities, politics, future and mystery of translation.

Presented by the Wheeler Centre for Asia TOPA. Asia TOPA is a joint initiative of the Sidney Myer Fund and Arts Centre Melbourne and is supported by the Australian and Victorian Governments.

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Nobuko Aiso

Nobuko Aiso is a translator, interpretator, writer, project manager and international correspondent. In 2015, she co-founded Art Translators Collective, an independent organisation that explores the value and possibilities of translation in the field of art. Born in Japan, Aiso spent her formative y... Read more

Kylie Bracknell

Kylie Bracknell (formerly Kylie Farmer) [Kaarljilba Kaardn] is an Aboriginal Australian actor, writer, TV presenter and theatre director from the south west of Western Australia – the Nyungar nation.  As an actor, Kylie has appeared in television programs such as The Gods Of Wh... Read more

Stephen Armstrong

Stephen Armstrong is a creative producer and programmer specialising in new work commissions and interdisciplinary and inter-cultural collaborations. He is currently Creative Director of the inaugural Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts.      Stephen graduated in... Read more

Isabelle Li

Isabelle Li grew up in China, has worked in Singapore and migrated to Australia in 1999. Her short stories have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, including The Best Australian Stories and Southerly.  Her story ‘Go Troppo’ was commended in the Ethel Webb Bundell Literary... Read more


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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.