The New York Times, a temporary project in the public space of New York City, realized in cooperation with the Deutsche Bank within the framework of the Moment art series
A collection of words chosen expressly for this project will be printed on both sides of a double page of the New York Times, on which the daily share prices are usually displayed. These words will be compiled by a continuously growing linguistic chain of local native speakers, and will thus represent as many of the languages spoken in New York as possible; at the same time they will also be translated into every language spoken in the city. Conceived as a translinguistic interview, the project will thus allow every language spoken in New York to "say its piece."
The multitude of words in small print, arranged in columns on these interpolated pages, will resemble lists of share quotations. They will be printed in a similar fine gray pattern and thus give the impression of communicating thousands of tiny pieces of information. The words will be selected to generate a multitude of different ideas, narratives, impressions and images. To this collection of words (that occur in every language but are pronounced and written differently in each one) will be added a selection of new 20th century loan words that remain phonetically and orthographically un-changed in a wide range of languages – words such as computer, political correctness, culture, online, partner, hi-fi, mobbing, savoir vivre, etc. Even though the same English or French form of these words is used whether they are written or spoken in the United States, Germany, Italy or Mexico, for instance, they will be repeated in the lists for each of the languages spoken in New York City. On the one hand a kind of drawing or pattern of varying complexity will be created – made up of the multiplicity of translations for some words, in contrast with other words that stay the same, for instance translations of the word no and recurrences of the word computer. On the otherhand an image of New York City and of the multiplicity of the nations and cul- tures living within it will emerge.
At the same time the newspaper as a medium will comment on its own function as a communicator of news and infor- mation, and on the code it uses to carry out this function – the printed word. A thesaurus, a collection of words, will thus be created that distinguishes "weak" from "strong" words – the result, as it were, of a research project in linguistic anthropology. Whereas "strong" words such as father, mother, bed, bread, house, etc. sound different in every language, "weak" words such as computer, automobile, and e-mail, are chronologically dependent precisely because they can be transferred without reservation into any cultural context.
The diagram printed in the New York Times will thus be an image not only of New York City but also of those basic concepts shared by everybody living on this earth. It will bear witness to the resilience of certain fundamental concepts and values – and of the cultures that use them – in the face of pressure exerted by the host culture to conform. On a page which normally lists share quotations – and which is thus associated with banking – readers will find their own culture of origin represented, in their own language, alongside the many other cultures of the city in which they live.
The temporary appearance of these pages in the New York newspaper will be a testimonial to both cultural identity and cultural heterogeneity. Based as it is on the multitude of languages that flourishes in New York City, the diagrammatic image of a metropolis that emerges can refer only to this particular city. The Project will be realised in October 2002.
Text: © Studio Karin Sander