Tamarin Norwood: the line that (…) Q&A


A Line Describing a Curve Describing a Curve (2013) – Tamarin Norwood

In relation to your own practice, how do you define the notions of dialogue and translation?

There’s dialogue going on between the movement of the pencil against the page and the tapping of the white cane along the pavement. There’s dialogue going on between a spontaneous gesticulation and a sign language handshape, which happen to resemble one another while meaning quite different things and meaning those things in quite different ways. There’s dialogue going on between the different meanings of a homophone, which coexist quite separately only to be revealed when they’re forced up against one other in a neatly worded pun. These phenomena coexist in their separate domains like doppelgänger who’ve never met but are irrepressibly similar all the same.

Putting these dialogues into evidence is a process of translating one into the terms of the other: forcing them up against one another so that the surface between the two is temporarily burst open and the two are heard by one another. Or rather (let’s be realistic, these things can’t really hear) so that the two are heard by us, and we hear them rattling against one another. Translating is saying: think of a pencil as a white cane. Think of it negotiating the space of the page as though it were negotiating a pavement altogether unseen but for an intermittent tap/tap/tap.

To what extent does miscommunication or mistranslation perform a role in your creative practice?

At the moment I don’t think it does. There are many near misses in my work, many near-symmetries, many analogies irresponsibly constructed then followed through to their irresponsible conclusions. But these aren’t mistranslations or miscommunications exactly; they are misdialogues. They are when I pair things up, shake them and hold to the ear before I’m sure they really are doppelgänger at all. They force a dialogue between things that don’t quite match, and out of this mismatch spill erroneous new creations—creations that would never have existed had the analogy perfectly matched and the translation gone without a hitch.

Within both dialogue and translation, does the concept of ‘loss’ have any function and meaning?

Both loss and gain. The losses and gains—the ghosts and interlopers—are the erroneous new creations that emerge whenever there’s asymmetry between the two terms of a dialogue. And in the end no dialogue is without its losses and gains: no match is exact, there is always some remainder or residue of the exchange, however slight. There is always asymmetry. I wonder sometimes how irresponsible I can be. What if I force a match between two terms that bear almost no relation at all, so that almost nothing results but loss and gain? These erroneous new creations, would they be too eroneous to make any sound? Or would they sound loudest of all?

Would you argue that loss has a transformative power in dialogue and translation?

The losses and gains fold back against their sources and transform them retrospectively. The tapping of the white cane against the pavement makes the page black and the pencil white; it makes sight touch; it means the lines are exploratory, groping and finding their way through the darkness. The movement of the pencil makes the cane leave a trace on the pavement behind it; it makes negotiation a graphic act, like making a map in reverse.


Tamarin Norwood is an artist and writer. Recent UK commissions include Tate Britain, Art on the Underground, Modern Art Oxford and the London Word Festival; international exhibitions include MOCCA Toronto, ICA Philadelphia, Beton7 Athens and AC Institute New York. Recent art writing and fiction includes publications by the ICA, Live Art Development Agency and Bloodaxe, and her latest artist book ‘olololo’ was published by Modern Art Oxford with Book Works studio. Tamarin studied linguistics and medieval Italian literature before training as an artist at Central Saint Martins and Goldsmiths, and is now completing a practice-led doctorate in Fine Art as an Oxford University Clarendon Scholar.

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One thought on “Tamarin Norwood: the line that (…) Q&A

  1. Pingback: the line that (breathes) – Tamarin Norwood | CuratingtheContemporary (CtC)

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