30 August 2014

Translating the Iliad

Book 1 took 73 days to stitch (via)
Translating Homer's Iliad is what Silvie Kilgallon is doing - translating its 24 books into stitch. Each greek letter will be a stitch (a cross-stitch), with colours changing throughout the books, starting with red and moving letter by letter so that the final book is blue.

Book 1 is finished, and Book 2 is the longest book. "I need to stitch faster" she says on the project blog, Stitched Iliad.
In progress - any embroiderer would love to see the back (via)
From the Guardian's article:

"I started the project in response to a curator showing me a newly built, empty gallery space and asking me what I would put in it," she said.
"My mind immediately sprang to the Iliad.I'd been researching translation, transmission and reception of text issues, so my immediate question to myself was 'Can I produce a translation of the text that allows an audience of non-classicists to appreciate it without understanding the text itself?' The colour translation was my solution."
The initial red colour scheme was inspired by the war, anger and bloodshed featured in the Iliad, which is believed to have been written between 750 and 650 BC.
...
Research has shown that cultures generally follow a similar order in developing names for colours. Black, white and red appear first, while blue is one of the last colours to be named.
Kilgallon said this was the reason the project starts in the primal colour of red before transitioning to blue, a colour indicative of a more technologically developed society.
She works on her Iliad in public places, "prompting conversations and interactions with an audience receptive to both the story of the Iliad and the story of the stitched Iliad."

Previously, for a project starting in 2011, she has stitched Book I in various ways, aiming to do it "twenty-four times, each time highlighting a different method of analysing the text. My first translation is a simple letter-for-colour substitution, which each letter of the alphabet being substituted for a different colour. When the Iliad was first written down all those years ago, it would not have had the breathings, accents, spaces, or lower case letters which modern classicists would now be familiar with; thus, my translation contains no spaces, punctuation marks, accents, or breathings. Later translations will focus on syntax, metaphor, location, character, etc. Hopefully when it is finally complete, it will be a work of spectacle, aesthetic beauty and complexity worthy of the title of epic."

For instance, here is that work in progress in March 2012 -
The colours are to do with names of characters and family trees.

Later, doubts set in ..."The aim of the first translation and the aim of all the rest is also different: the first translation dealt with metaphor, and how it reveals but also obscures, it dealt with appreciation and understanding. At the moment, I feel like all the rest are just… infograms. They’re just colour-coded charts showing the frequency of names and places. They’re analysing the text in a way which is supposed to be understandable, which seems almost completely at odds with my intentions in the first piece. ... Why do the same thing 24 times, unless you feel the idea is developing further each time (and I don’t think it will)?"

And so the project changed. I can just about imagine what it will look like when it's finished - amazing, in a word - and perhaps this sample of two of the Book I's, displayed during the Lichfield festival, will help you imagine it too -


1 comment:

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