Gabriela Saldanha X Heather Connelly

Escurrir is a collaborative script performed by Heather Connelly and translator and academic Gabriela SaldanhaEscurrir, can be translated as ‘drain, wring, slip away’ it is a playful work that exposes translation as a generative and performative act.

WATCH the performance:

The work is based upon the translation of the Riordan and Takayanagi’s (1896:v) metaphoric description of the difficulty of translating Japanese literature, ‘whose peculiar beauties are apt to disappear like the opal tints of a squeezed jellyfish’, (Henitiuk in St Andre 2014:144). Saldanha translated the English term, Jelly Fish, into Spanish and then back into English, which became [agua viva] ‘Live Water’ or [Medusa] ‘ Medusa’. We worked together discussing the merits of these subsequent metaphors and continued to expand the associations that they produced through the iterative translation and back-translation forming an elliptical ‘feedback loop’, that exploits the generative nature of translation and how the concept becomes expanded as it passes between languages.

The process: The work has been designed to evolve through constant editing and reworking and expand as each term is translated, back translated, and discussed as we consider what these ‘new’ terms tell us about the process of translation. Following on from experiments made during her residency at the Summerlodge (Nottingham Trent University , Connelly is  seeking ways to engage with the materiality of this process, to record and expose what is/has taken place, and how new articulations for translation are conjured up through these subtle shifts of vocabulary. She has begun to explore the potential of the physical artefact in documenting and baring witness to this ongoing practice and evolving process.

Escurrir | Abstract

Artist/researcher, Heather Connelly, and Translation Studies academic, Gabriela Saldanha, will perform a script in Spanish and English that explores the unstable and shifting subject positions of the translator and the translated. The two protagonists problematise the process of speaking for another and through another, performatively exposing translation as a multiple, provisional and embodied phenomenon. Theoretically the dialogue concerns the potential of two conceptual mappings to account for the translator’s subjective and embodied response: translation as restored behaviour (Schechner 1885) and translation as linguistic hospitality (Ricoeur 2006).

The text has been developed collaboratively as part of an informal research project between Connelly and Saldanha to expand their personal research into the performativity of translation within their respective fields (art and translation) and to test out what new knowledge can emerge out of this transdisciplinary practice-based research, which pays equal attention to process of writing and the sensorial activity of performing and enunciating the words. The text evolves with each iteration, taking different forms dependent upon the context within which it is presented, and often includes other participants.

Connelly seeks to engage academics in artist-led research, demonstrating the benefits of transdisciplinarity in examining a topic from multiple perspectives through a dialogic engagement with theoretical and tacit knowledge. Whereas Saldanha’s interest in translation stylistics has led her to argue that the anthropological understanding of performance as restored behaviour allows us to map literary translation as performance in a way that is closely in line with how translators tend to see their own practice.

The images that played while Heather and Gabriela performed.

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Jessica Sequeira X Jessica Rainey

Jessica Sequeira and Jessica Rainey both translate from Spanish to English. Their collaboration responds to the work of young Chilean poets and includes audio-visuals, translations and documentary poems sourced from Chilean news reports. 

At the presentation (at which Jessica Sequeira could not be present, as she was in Chile) a video that she made with Jessica Rainey was screened while Jessica Rainey read over it. 


Read the text and watch the video piece below:






Part 3: process and presentation

Jessica Sequeira

I collaborated with Jessica Rainey, another translator from Spanish to English. For the Poettrio Experiment, we wanted to focus on Latin American poetry that included but was not limited to “straight” translations of the text from one language to another. Over email we threw around ideas about how we might incorporate video and documentary poetry. As I happen to be in Santiago de Chile at the moment, we also thought this would be a great opportunity to incorporate some work by contemporary poets, more or less young (under 40). With four poets who work at the Fundación Neruda in Chile, I recorded a video that combines abstract images, the poets’ readings of their work in Spanish, and my English language translations of the texts. This came to just under five minutes. The poets were very enthusiastic about getting involved, as well as about seeing their work translated, having it presented abroad, and opening it up to further avantgarde or creative possibilities; they were also very curious about Newcastle and its literary and translation scene! Jessica then had the great idea of producing “found poem” responses to the original poems and translations, incorporating documentary material from Chile. She wrote several docu-poems which are timed to be read during the live performance, during gaps in the video between poems and translations. This has been a wonderful process, which involved chance (my pairing with another Jessica working SP > EN; my presence in Santiago for a poetry festival at La Chascona), “standard” translation (the rendering of four poets’ work into English), collaboration (the use of documentary material inspired by Jessica’s background, which I would never have thought to add myself) and modernist techniques (the incorporation of cut-up texts using non-fiction materials). The title of our project, “The difficult art of living in Santiago de Chile”, is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it was thought up in collaboration with the four Santiago poets, who all write urban literature that very much reflects their interests and concerns as poets in the capital.

Jessica Rainey

The fact that Jessica Sequeira was in Chile working with poets was too good an opportunity to miss and became the obvious starting point for our collaboration. We agreed that the Poettrio Experiment was a chance to experiment with translation processes or presentation options that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore, and early on decided that it would be great to introduce a multi-media aspect to the presentation as a way to ensure the (otherwise physically absent) presence of the majority of the participants. Beyond that, the collaboration became quite an organic process, and effectively fell into two parts. In Chile, Jessica S. worked with the source poets, adeptly selecting, translating, recording and producing an audio-visual film. Meanwhile, I considered options for introducing documentary elements into the project – background information, news clips or article extracts – though it was not until I received the texts and video that my possible contribution became clearer. I decided to select key words, images or concepts from each individual poem and run an online search for relevant reports from Chilean media sources or organisations. Rather than translate these sources wholesale, I used the reports to create ‘found’ or ‘documentary’ poem-translations to give a flavour of Chile as portrayed by its media, yet accessed and processed by an outsider who had never visited the country. Although sentences or phrases do not necessarily appear in consecutive order, the translation of each unit can be described as faithful, with the exception of the fourth poem where some words or phrases were intentionally omitted. Wilful mistranslation or misrepresentation of facts, however, was never an aim of this stage. Rather, the aim was to support the original poems in concept and tone while providing an objective counterpoint to the lyric and translated poems. Among the initial ideas for incorporating the found poems was to include subtitles on the video; however, as the video was complete and neither of us were sufficiently techie to easily introduce them, the only other possibility seemed to be a live reading alongside the video projection. The reading of the found poems at times overlaps the source poems, at times the translations, in what is an imperfect but hopefully interesting polyphonic experiment. In keeping with the idea of translation trios and poetry experiments, then, we have somewhat inadvertently produced a three-tiered project (source poems, translated poems plus additional translation layer) that began in Chile with a live collaboration between poets and an initial translator, and ends in Newcastle with a live performance involving a second translator and finished film.

Martin Heslop X Helen Tookey

Composer and writer Martin Heslop and poet Helen Tookey collaborated to produce highly effective sound pieces, where sound and word were constantly re-translated across media.
They presented ‘Jitties’ at the event on the 20th July.

WATCH a film of Martin and Helen’s presentation

Listen to the collaborative piece “Jitties” here: 


aren’t on the map but you’ve always known them the dogleg through to the playschool the library the cuts through estates the tunnels that bring you out differently you have always wanted this to move unseen to cut passages able to slip through the cracks like the streams along the field edge the housebacks the narrowways the creosote fences overhangs of trees the gardens’ wild endings not overlooked not comprehended another life under this one humming with motorway a kind of code you slip away you’ve always known it danger under culverts circling spikes to stop you crossing by the pipeline watercourses older ways the body can read can know their presence motorway humming with escapes not speaking turning inwards creosote wood hot slabs tiny observation posts world expands to fill the space allowable constraint produces meaning under pressure it codes heightens you are aware the wires the tracks humming for miles concentrated here where you must be not speaking but knowing everything is there in the spaces between

Read their account of the collaborative translation process they forged:


The process began with conversations between Martin and me about what I had wanted the poems to convey or how I had wanted them to work as poems, and what he envisaged being able to do with them as sound pieces. Martin recorded me reading the poems, then he took the sound files away to work with and I waited to see what he would come up with. It was exciting for me precisely because he was creating new objects from the poems in a way that I couldn’t do myself. Many of the poems use fragmentation to try to convey a particular experience; in ‘Jitties’ I wanted to convey a sense of the language sliding, piling up, and in ‘Beautiful Error’ a sense of a mind going over and over a question, trying it out in lots of different ways. But I could only do that to some extent, because the text (printed or read) is fixed in one layout, one order. What I really love about the collaboration with Martin is that he’s been able to bring what I imagined into being through recorded sound far more than I could do it on the printed page – cutting up the vocal track, layering it over itself, so that you really get the sense I wanted of a kind of urgency and slipperiness. And the sound also enables the build-up of a mood, a texture – of eeriness, say, in ‘Beautiful Error’ – far more effectively than just the printed words could. So what I have found really exciting about this process is that on the one hand I’m giving the text, the poem, to Martin with a completely free hand – I want it to be entirely up to him what he makes from it, so that it comes back to me, as it were, as a new object; but on the other hand, with these poems that has actually resulted in a more complete realisation of what I wanted the poems to be able to do, because sound recording adds so many possibilities, particularly that of being able to make the language move and track over itself in ways that a fixed text can’t.


These particular poems of Helen’s, as opposed to some of our other work, were presented to me as finished pieces, and so in order to make something new I immediately decided that I was going to cut and splice the words, to repeat them, layer them, reverse them. Helen very kindly gave me free rein in this. The recordings of the text already had an immediacy and pace to them and I wanted to encourage that. I began by noting down sounds from the real everyday world that the poems reminded me of, then started exaggerating them or bastardising them until they sounded like something completely different. Sometimes these sounds that I’m looking for are in an instrument or a synthesiser, but equally can be found in the noises of a building site or in a long breath or in the clatter of metal. I go around hitting things, pressing buttons, listening until I find the right sound or mood.

It’s always a strange process, translating poetry which is able to describe all the senses, into a recording that is only experienced by the ears, and the challenge, as always, was to find the right tone; to work with the words but not be prescriptive or predictable; to find the right pacing and in some cases rhythm, and particularly in this case as these are short pieces, to set the mood quickly. There are also the odd times when I feel the need to disrupt the words, to impose on them, and the key is to know when to do this, and with Helen’s delicate yet precise writing I have to be careful. A lot of my music is written in collaboration with poets, playwrights and visual artists, and the style and tone of each project is different, but the joy of working with Helen is the care in which each word is placed on the page, their flow, but also how often the poems end up in unexpected places, and consequently this gives me plenty of room to experiment with sounds.

I recently read a book called Animalinside by the wonderful Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai with drawings by Max Neumann, and reading about their process afterwards was particularly interesting. The writer first responded to one of Neumann’s images and then Neumann, inspired by the words, made a further set of images, to which Krasznahorkai then responded by writing more texts. This back and forth, this cross-pollination of ideas and art-forms is exciting, and the projects myself and Helen are planning and developing are moving towards this way of working.

Helen Tookey is a poet based in Liverpool, where she teaches creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University. Her debut collection Missel-Child (Carcanet, 2014) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney first collection prize. Her pamphlet In the Glasshouse was published by HappenStance Press in 2016, and the CD/booklet If You Put Out Your Hand, a collaboration with musician Sharron Kraus, came out from Wounded Wolf Press also in 2016.
Martin Heslop is a composer, writer and sound artist based in Newcastle. He has written musical scores and lyrics for short and full-length theatre shows and film, and has worked on many collaborations with poets, playwrights and visual artists for live performances, recordings and installations. He is currently studying for an MA in creative writing at Newcastle University.