February 3rd, 2006


Rinko's diary googlemangled

I've mentioned Rinko Kawauchi's diary before. In her exhibitions this great photographer works with large format cameras and big scale prints. But for her Foil blog she snaps with a keitai phone camera. One picture per day, always the same aspect ratio: upright. Sometimes Rinko shoots into a flaring light, sometimes up at the sky or the ceiling, sometimes down at her feet. Sometimes she snaps food, other times an animal or a flower. I think we're very lucky to have this diary, which has a modest, poetic flavour all of its own.

There's also poetry in the Japanese texts. If you Google Translate them into English you get some very peculiar phrases indeed. I must admit I've been using some of these in my lyric composition. Here are some picks from what Google made of Rinko's January entries.

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This stuff makes me think about the uses of inexactitude. Google translation is in its "poetry golden age" precisely because it is inexact. Who knows how long this golden age will last before perfection moves in, destroying the poetry? I feel the same way about my own very limited Japanese skills. In a vocabulary of perhaps 400 words, I know two words for "mushroom" and two words for "sorry". This is in some ways more telling than if I knew the whole lexicon.

The unreliable tour guide act I'm about to do at the Whitney also works with inexactitude. Everything I say about the work on display will be false, but the wrongness will be like a torch beam shining light on the work from a parallel world, the parallel world in which that information is true. The relationship between these two worlds will be telling, perhaps more telling than a true and exact description. Inexactitude has the advantage of creating a parallel world for us (the world where its lies and mistakes are truths and facts), whereas exactitude's claim to be the single right answer can only be arrogant, reductive and boring, an appeal to authority rather than the imagination.

Exactitude contains the delusion that one language maps to another, or that true descriptions are possible. Inexactitude is puckish (though we don't want to fly in a plane piloted by Puck).

Exoticism is only made possible by inexactitude. Exoticism is that place where we invest all we don't know about someone with glamour. Inexactitude is the soil for the flowers of fascination.