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Response 2 - Process or Product?


Dear Marie,

Thanks for the task. I was quite exercised by this opposition between process and product in the task you set, because I divined in it an implicit value judgement (process is better than product; to be immersed in process is to be mindful, whereas to be focused on product is to be absent from the moment, etc etc) and so I wanted to do that academic thing of unpicking the opposition. I don’t know if I have done that (deconstructed the opposition and its value judgement, I mean), but I must admit that what I have done is to make a product in middle-aged-adolescent defiance of your instructions. In other words, I confess to some irritation with this first task, because I discerned in it a didactic and even moralistic purpose. Let me admit straight away that this irritation is hypocritical, because the tasks I set are themselves likely to be didactic, but still — I couldn’t help but indulge it. But here are some thoughts, and an introduction to the object (a bad poem) I made according to your instruction to employ creative writing.

Part of my irritation with the opposition you posit between process and product is that it seems to contradict the point of parametric procedures, which are designed to generate an unexpected outcome — i.e., some sort of object or product. In parametric work, process is a ‘finding form’. Did you want me/my work to be ‘formless’? Were you asserting that amorphousness is a superior state? Anyway, I decided to design some parameters of my own in order to aim towards form.

In the task, you specify that I should use my daily activities, such as my Danish lessons, to explore the ‘in-between’. This was astute, because the experience of learning another language is powerfully ‘process-ful’ — you feel yourself to be in a preliminary, expectant but uncertain state (will I ever learn this damn language? how can I force my mouth to produce these vowels?). Your own competence is the product being aimed for, perhaps never to be completed, but in the meantime you are obliged to ‘produce’ alien sounds, navigate unfamiliar syntax, answer classroom questions you hardly understand in vocabulary you don’t have. Personally, though I have sort of managed to be a speaker of Italian, I do not enjoy this process, which is for me an anxious one (the ‘bodily sensation’ you ask me to specify is one of a nervous throb in my gut). So, the formal parameters I chose reflect this anxious sense of in-between and allowed me to generate a product in defiance of your instructions. In a sense, I avoided doing your task, and I’m dissatisfied with what I did do because what I produced and how I produced it function more as a metaphor for the state of in-between than as a formal instance of it (which would be more artistically interesting). However, here it is.

Privileged language learners with web and smartphone access now have many evolving resources to understand and study a new language. The Google Translate app even has a facility to use the smartphone camera to ‘live translate’ text. With a language like Danish, spoken by only a few million people, these translations are not always reliable, and the translations provided in English can sometimes be unidiomatic or misleading. I decided to use this live translation facility to render the short dialogues given in the units we have so far covered in my beginner Danish textbook, and to employ the results to generate a piece of writing. Here’s some of the textbook dialogue and a screenshot from Google Translate as an example:

Textbook dialogue

Google live translates

My plan was to use the whole text (reproduced in the table at the bottom of this post) to make a sort of absurdist, aleatory text, but in the event I lost my nerve and the poem that has resulted is more melancholy than anarchic. In tribute to one of the inspirations for the parametric method, the Lars Von Trier/Jørgen Leth film The Five Obstructions(2003) — or rather, to Jørgen Leth’s 1967 The Perfect Human, which inspired the later film — I restricted myself to the questions, but I left out the question marks for added ambiguity.

Some of the translations provided by Google Translate reminded me of the comic dialogue in a scene from my favourite move, Casablanca, in which two Hungarian (I think) refugees speak to Carl, their compatriot who serves table at Rick’s Café. They explain that now that they are travelling to America they are speaking only English and they perform asking the time of each other for Carl, as follows:

Husband:     Sweetnessheart, what watch?
Wife:       Ten watch.
Husband:     Such much!?

Carl, who is rather more proficient in English, makes an uncomfortable shrug but responds kindly, ‘You will get along beautifully in America’. The title of my poem is therefore ‘Getting Along Beautifully in Denmark’, and the text is found below. Here is a recitation:

Thank you again for this task — I promise to perform the next one in less cranky fashion!



Getting Along Beautifully in Denmark

What’s your name

What’s your name to last name

How is it going

So what—what about you

Do you want a cup of coffee

Can I borrow a smoke

Is this your or my key located on the table

Do you know what time is


What time do you free today

Have you free tomorrow evening

What time you will meet

When do you meet

Do you know what time is


Yes, I want at 20 your work -

Where do you work

And where do you work

Do you think about your work

Are you happy…


You can take my watch on Thursday

You need to work on Thursday

You can then take my custody Friday

What about your boss works you always on Sunday

What made you Sunday

How long have you been work here


You can be little longer today

We need to work out later

Are you happy…


Table of translations

What’s your name ten in first name Patrawadee
Uh, how to you spell you the P-A-T-R-A-W-A-D-E-E
What’s your name to last name Rasmussen
Good morning Good morning
How is it going Quietly. What about you
Thank you for today Even thank you
See you on Monday. Have a nice weekend! Thank you in the right way
So what Not so much
Do you want a cup of coffee Yes
Værsgo Thank you must have
Can I borrow a smoke Yes, obvious wall go.
Thanks for the
Do you know what time is Yes, it is 11.30
Ok, Thank you!
What time do you free today Cis 16
We need to work out later Yes, we can do that.
You can be ldt longer today Not, unfortunately I can not.
I must download children at 16.30
Have you free tomorrow evening Yes, why
Wuld you with the café Yes, I want at 20
It sounds fine
Where do you work I work in an IT company. And where do you work
I work at a nursery.
What time you will meet_ I meetings at 9. What about dig When do you meet
I meetings at 7. Reach, it was early!
Hilah do you think about your work I think it is interesting.
Are you happy your work Yes, but it is a also a little stressful sometimes.
How long have you been work here Lay
How long you need to be in internship here 2 months
To get every day No, I come ‘s days a week
Goes on language school 2 days a week Reach ok, well welcome ten
Are you happy your internship Yes, I have some really sweet colleagues
It sounds good. What about your boos He is very nice.
You need to work on Thursday No, first on Friday.
You can take my watch on Thursday. Yes, you can then take my custody Friday
I can Ok, so will exchange we!
Is this your or my key located on the table It is your – I have my in ommen
Oh, that was good – I thought I had lost the
If scarf is the It is not your
No, I think it is Linda’s No, she has its scarf on.
Ok, it is perhaps my…
What is called the parent in the past tense It is called met
What made you Sunday I was at work all day
Works you always on Sunday Not. I tend not to work on weekends.

See here for next task.