Bring Me My Fire Truck

Mr Gee 2019

Animation of William Blake’s Jerusalem running through the 24 official languages of the European Union, plus Welsh, via Google Translate

William Blake’s poem Jerusalem has been hailed as the unofficial English anthem, the defining narrative of this ‘green and pleasant land’. But, by subjecting Blake’s mastery of language to the forces of Google Translate, which uses Artificial Intelligence to translate a chosen language into another, other tales of England begin to emerge. In Bring Me My Firetruck, poet Mr Gee explores the ‘soul of Brexit’ through combining Blake’s poem with the visual metaphor of an airport arrivals board. As we stare at the board, incoming planes are landing from countries of the European Union, bringing with them the free movement of people, the free movement of language, and the free movement of interpretation. By translating the English poem through the 23 other official languages of the European Union and Welsh, Mr Gee reveals a rib-tickling series of new versions: ‘O Clouds unfold’ becomes ‘Get my bed’ and ‘Bring me my Chariot of fire!’ is transformed into the title of this new piece, ‘Bring Me My Fire Truck’. Old meanings deteriorate and new ideas emerge according to algorithmic assumptions and corruptions. The poem’s point of view shifts between the sinister, the banal, and the absurd, raising a few wry smiles along the way.

Commissioned by ODI Data as Culture art programme.

Credits

Production: Translating Nature (Julie Freeman, Stephen Wolff)
Arrival icon by Daniela Baptista from the Noun Project
Plane icons by Denis Sazhin from the Noun Project
Country flags via http://flag-icon-css.lip.is
Split-flap animation adapted from Flapper

Materials

Poem, javascript, Google's Translate service

Exhibition

Copy That? Surplus Data in an Age of Repetitive Duplication
Feb 2020 – Dec 2020 at the Open Data Institute

Data Types

Identifiable, Open, Processed, Social

About the Artist

Mr Gee (UK) is a veteran of the UK’s spoken word scene and a BBC radio presenter. Gee champions promoting unheard voices in society, in part through his extensive rehabilitation work in prisons. He has delivered…
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