The Morphing Glass Objects of ‘Chinese Whispers’
Moving between languages and communicating only through email and social media, British artist Erin Dickson’s ongoing project Chinese Whispers creates a chain reaction and production between 15 international glass practitioners.
One person whispers a message to the person next to them, and a story is passed progressively to several others. As inaccuracies accumulate as the game goes on, the last player’s announcement of the story ends up radically changed from the original. In Glasmuseet Ebeltoft’s current exhibition, this childhood game — called ‘Glass Whispers’ in the UK — is adopted by glass artists and the story is interpreted through Google Translate’s slightly off abilities and interpretations.
The chain of events began with an interpretation of a photograph made by British artist (and concept creator of the exhibition) Erin Dickson by Venetian glassblower Silvano Signoretto. His Italian description of the resulting vase was then google translated by the following glass blower, British artist James Devereux — who was then given bounce house with slide for sale the task of reproducing the vase based on nothing but the English Google description. This process is repeated by the rest of the chosen artists, as they create their glass works and describe how it was done, which is subsequently translated through Google Translate to the native language of the next artist.
Through its use of open-source translation and it’s international selection of artists, “Chinese Whispers” reflects how people and cultures still influence one another — even if globalisation and thus standardisation seems to have encapsulated the modern world. With this methodology, we see what happens when people on different sides of manmade borders, each with their own perspective on reality, relate to one and the same thing. The interpretation – or misinterpretation – of the same message by individual artists, gradually leads to the original Italian vase being transformed until it is no longer recognisable. The transformation is in itself both worthwhile and entertaining. But the underlying point goes much further, as it attests to the fact that nothing is static — but forever changing.
Artists participating in the chain exhibition:
Silvano Signoretto (Italy), James Devereux (Great Britain), Hyunsung Cho (Korea), Sibusiso Mhlanga (Swaziland), Einar & Jamex de la Torre (Mexico), Rasmus Nossbring (Sweden), Zuheir Alkazzaz (Syria/The Netherlands), Mia Lerssi (Denmark), Jing Li (China), Nadège Desgenétez (France/Australia), Petr & Ondrej Novotny (Czech Republic), Kelly O’Dell (USA), Christina Hellevik & Leif Møller Nielsen (Denmark), Bevan Taka (Maori/Sweden), James Maskrey (Great Britain).
‘Chinese Whispers’ is on view until March 22nd 2020, and is part of ‘From Where We Stand– 7 Exhibitions on National Identity’, a collaboration between seven Danish art museums.
Cover Photo: Portrait of Erin Dickson / © Michael McGuire