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Metatranslations: Ed Bok Lee's Intervention in ASI's Library & Archives
What can we gain and what can we build without understanding context? ASI’s Benson Gallery transforms into a poetic research laboratory—a workspace that exhibits new works of author Ed Bok Lee, a Minnesota Book Award/PEN Award winner—and shows his process of creating “meta-translations” from the archival material in ASI’s Wallenberg Library and Archives, as part of Coffee House Press’ Readers and Writers Library Residency.
Bok Lee will spend a month-long residency (January) inside the Wallenberg Library and Archives, researching daily journals and poetry entries from Swedish immigrants, all written in Swedish, without any knowledge of the language.
Bok Lee utilizes these entries as an incubator for new creative works, drawing mainly on their form and typographic appearance. The original poems and letters are never translated into English, offering Bok Lee, the son of Korean immigrants, a creative platform upon which to build a ghostly scaffolding of the original.
“With what I’m calling meta translations, I’ll take diary entries, poems, and letters written by laypeople in Swedish, and create new poems based solely on what I’m picking up from the, to me, unintelligible sounds and visual script. The less I know of the original content, the better. I might be thinking about my own parents’ letters home to Korea, while creating these meta translations, or my own letters or diary entries or poems while living abroad,” reflects Bok Lee.
Bok Lee's Poetry Inspires Short Films By Local Artists
Bok Lee's original work served as the impetus for local film makers Xavier Tavera, Allison Bolah, Mike Hoyt, Janaki Ranpura and Natasha Pestich. All five filmmakers work is on view as part of Metatranslations.
Xavier Tavera: "Don't Let Sin Have The Richer Imagination"
Allison Bolah: "Passages"
Mike Hoyt: "National Museum of the Soul's Vanities"
Janaki Ranpura: "Gossip"
Natasha Pestich: "Aftermath"
Coffee House Press Readers and Writers Library Residency
Inspired by the Library as Incubator Project, the Coffee House Press Readers and Writers Library Residency program places readers and writers in residence at public, school, and specialty libraries to create a body of work that will inspire a broader public to engage with their local libraries in new and meaningful ways, and to encourage artists and the general public to think about libraries as creative spaces. Previous collaborating organizations include the Walker Art Center and the American Craft Council.
This project is co-presented by ASI and Coffee House Press.
A Readers and Writers Library Residence event with Ed Bok Lee was held at ASI on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m.