Bring Me My Fire Truck (the New Jerusalem?)

Mr Gee 2019 - 2020

Experience the artwork here

Interactive online animation of William Blake’s Jerusalem running through the 24 official languages of the European Union, Scots Gaelic and Welsh via Google Translate.

Installation version available. Dimensions, material and duration variable.

Not optimised for mobile devices – best viewed in Chrome.

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 (the New Jerusalem?), poet Mr Gee explores the ‘soul of Brexit’ through combining Blake’s poem with the visual metaphor of an airport arrivals board.

In this interactive online piece, incoming ‘planes’ bring the free movement of people, language, and interpretation. Old meanings deteriorate as new ideas emerge according to algorithmic assumptions and corruptions.

You are invited to maneouver your way through the ‘airport’ to decide where you want the poem to take you. In ‘Arrivals’, you can watch the animation cycle before moving on to the interactive sections: ‘Baggage Reclaim’ and ‘Lost Luggage’.

In ‘Baggage Reclaim’, you select luggage from across the EU to access videos of native speakers reciting the mistranslations. New meanings are found and old sentiments deteriorate as the poem moves between different voices, languages and dialects.

In ‘Lost Luggage’ random verses from each translation are combined together to form an aggregate poem of multiple voices and mistranslations which changes upon each playing. The original poem’s point of view shifts between the sinister, the banal, the hilarious and the absurd.

firetruck.theodi.org

Commissioned by Data as Culture at the ODI.

Credits

Production: Translating Nature (Julie Freeman, Stephen Wolff, Max Gate Digital)
Country flags via http://flag-icon-css.lip.is
Split-flap animation adapted from Flapper
Icons from Noun Project contributors: Daniela Baptista, Denis Sazhin, Luis Prado, Saee Vaze, Stanislav Levin, iconsmind.com, Tommy Lau, icon 54, Eugene So, Mike Rowe, Ralf Schmitzer, Rudy Jaspers, Shmidt Sergey, Aldric Rodríguez, Mahmure Alp, Adrien Coquet, Yeoul Kwon, Strokeicon, glyph.faisalovers, Flatart.

With thanks to participants

Elora Kadir, Ivan Marevich, Karin Bednarova, Tui Lin, Charlotte Bitter & Max Van Rossem, Miriam Tomusk, Cleo Lee, Lamzo Nubien, Thomas Dietz, Joanna Bray, Lorand Kiss, Oisín Mac Giolla Bhríde, Eleonora Oreggia / xname, Elina Rubine, Jurgita Dedinca, Martin schranz, Margot Przymierska, Jorge Pinto, Laura Bucin, Timo Hill, Jana Hovanec, Damjan, Sonia Duarte, Mary-Anne Buyondo, Matthew Hawes.

Materials

Poem, javascript, Google's Translate service

Exhibition

Copy That? Surplus Data in an Age of Repetitive Duplication
Visit the online projects, physical exhibition closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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…
Read more