‘Tongues’ a study of the lived experience of translation, created by Finnish-Palestinian actor, playwright and director Noora Dadu and American writer, translator and musician Timmy Straw.

Radios are turned up to beat thunder,
translations of the gospel
back into tongues.

CD Wright, ‘Libretto’


‘Tongues’ is the work of Finnish-Palestinian actor, playwright and director Noora Daduand American writer, translator and musician Timmy Straw, working in close collaboration with Leah Agne (researcher/archivist, US), Ami Karvonen(director/dramaturg, Finland), Teemu Mäki (artist/poet, Finland) and Emily Wells(composer/performer/video artist, US). It is a study of the lived experience of translation across different private, political and historical circumstances and across different art forms, including poetry, music, performance, video, and dance. Collectively, we see ‘Tongues’ as a series of etudes––iterations in pursuit of a whole––that takes as its ‘life-world’ the manifold conditions and motivations for translation, refiguring these as stagings, as performative events.

As a group we will spend these two weeks at the Saari Residence (or, for the Americans, on Zoom) collecting images, ideas, phrases, gestures, and beginning to give the work a form and structure and an arc of pursuit (thinking here of Bach’s Preludes & Fugues, whose beauty comes out of a very dry organizing principle: Bach wanted to explore each key, along the circle of fifths,  and to deal, strategically and consciously, with a range of technical problems in keyboard performance).

Translation, in the work ‘Tongues,’ can mean and be many things––act, necessity, position towards reality, metaphor, medium of relation. Translation conditions the terms of our world together: it is there in law, migration, cartography, belief, love, distance, intimacy, and power; and it is also, telescoping inward, our only means towards each other. If, for Paul Celan, a poem is a message in a bottle, then translation is surely the bottle, or the ocean, bringing (and necessarily changing) speech from one being to another across real and/or metaphorical distance.