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Translation Party


Translation Party

Nov 6, 2013 — Feb 2, 2014

Location: Hearst Lobby

Translation Party (2009, 2013) by Will Carlough and Richard Boenigk uses machine translation to convert an English phrase into Japanese, then convert that result back into English, continuing this process until the phrase stops changing, or reaches “equilibrium” in the words of its creators.

This intentional misuse pushes a translation engine to its absurd end, feeding the software its own words to put its contortions on display as it struggles to understand them. The ordeal ends when what it swallows and what it spits up are indistinguishable; the more mangled the phrase, the more successful the interaction. The viewer delights both in watching a computer persistently fail to understand the complexity of language and attempting to derive meaning from its nonsensical output.

Since the website launched in 2009, machine translation has become considerably more precise, and Translation Party results are frequently more intelligible. Translation Party, then, is both a celebration of the complexity of human expression and an ironic farewell to the exclusivity of another complex skill once practiced solely by humans.

Museum of the Moving Image presents an installation version of the original website in its lobby. Visitors can send text messages to the installation and see them translated in real time on a 50-foot-wide projection.