16.10.23, 11:00

Ch’ixi undertranslation, London Interdisciplinary School

“La visión desde lo pequeño puede ser subversiva en un sentido que todavía no podemos nombrar adecuadamente. Diré por ahora que quisiera ver un mundo (…) de cadenas de montañas, no de cadenas de valor” —Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui

“The vision from the small can be subversive in a sense that we cannot yet adequately name. I will say for now that I would like to see a world (…) of mountain chains, not value chains” —Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui


We followed an intuition. Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui uses this word called abigarramiento. It is untranslatable to english. The word indicates shelter, rooting, but also swallowing, seizing… we looked for where that word appears, in which text. We found nothing, but we found something else.

We translated “Magic words. Reflections on the nature of the present crisis” by Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, first chapter of A ch’ixi world is possible Essays from a present in crisis.

Each participant began modeling their porcelain. A gesture is fixed in an effort. A grip is molded. It becomes sculptural. It reminds us of the triangular grip pencils that we used as small children to learn to write. And it is a similar act, because undertranslation requires abandoning knowledge, what is brought. It is a theft, piracy. We used what is there. If reading is a political act, because it passes throughout the body, the exercise of undertranslation requires detaching oneself and not wanting to focus on the summary, the key words, or even a sense of understanding what x word means. You surrender to the unknown. Today some spoke Spanish, we all spoke English. For some, their mother tongue is Spanish. Not for others, but they understood it. Some used their cell phones, others decided not address any type of technological help. Using what was there. A text in Spanish for someone who only speaks only English can be understood because of a few words where the linguistic roots connect. When people start by saying I don’t speak Spanish and I didn’t understand much, what there where really saying is they say they understood. They understood everything. They understood everything because they read. Because knowledge passes the text through the body by the act of reading, and being aware of that, also produces another form of knowledge. Nobody achieves perfect coherence because translating already implies a transfer. And above all, because coherence and neutrality do not exist. Because reading, even if it is in another language and without speaking the language, is an exercise in multiplication. Undertranslabitly transforms, misrepresents and connects. We all understood. Today we understood everything.
Magic words.

Thanks to all the untranslators today who provided new starting points.

Don’t worry about the table, we will all clean later. Don’t worry about understanding, we all got something.

Participants: Asha Bensted-Smith, Steve Fuller, Catherine Smith, Diby Pratt, Molly Bull, Carolina Cerón Castilla, Laura Emsley, Nicolle Valentina Rodriguez, Tabitha Rigby and María Angélica Madero.