Slavs and Tatars: "Lektor" / Ernst Lubitsch: To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Th 06.03.
  • Free entry

Slavs and Tatars is a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. In advance of their fall exhibition, the artists developed a new version of the audio work «Lektor» for the future public library space of Kunsthalle Zurich. The piece focuses on the potentials and the pitfalls of language and translation, geography and governance, pasts and presents, and consists of an Uighur voice reading excerpts from the medieval epic poem «Kutadgu Bilig» (Wisdom of Royal Glory), and a voice-over of the German translation. The carpet «Mother Tongues and Father Throats» invites you to pause, to listen, and to reflect. A series of events will further the dialogical framework of the project.

This programme will kick-off on Thursday, 6 March, 6 pm, with a screening of the legendary US-American screwball comedy movie „To Be or Not to Be“ by Ernst Lubitsch (1942, 99 min), and a performative live translation into Swiss-German. “How would Lubitsch do it?” says a sign outside Billy Wilder’s office. Dealing with Nazi-occupied Warsaw, the legendary German-American actor, screenwriter, producer and film director did it with a debatable mix of parody and politics, troupes and troops, Shakespeare and sham in this celebrated classic.

As part of their cycle of investigation into the different practices and techniques of translation, Slavs and Tatars seek to generate the cracks that moments of imagination may cause by demonstrating and experiencing the real "lector". The live voice-over also known as "Gavrilov technique" is often used in Eastern Europe in television and cinema, and elsewhere mainly for news reports. Leaving a gap between the original and local language, the actors’ audible performance merges with one’s comprehension of the spoken content in a trans-cultural process of perception and interpretation.

Slavs and Tatars will be present to elucidate some of these ideas by way of an introduction to the event.