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The TANGO TRANSLATION TYPOGRAPHY event series creates a platform for dialogue via an impressive example of visual poetry from the early 20th century and in cooperation with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz). Eugene Ostashevsky and Daniel Mellis’s poetic-typographic re-translation of Vasilij Kamenskij’s Tango with Cows is at the center of an ensemble of events and exhibitions that explore the intersection of Futurist aesthetics, avant-garde literature and popular culture.

TANGO TRANSLATION TYPOGRAPHY | Lecture, Showcases, Video Talks, Virtual Exhibition, Essay

Contributions by Eugene Ostashevsky and Galina Babak, Susanne Frank, Alexandra Ksenofontova, Anna Luhn, Daniel Mellis.

In 1914 Vasilij Kamenskij published Tango with Cows (Танго с коровами), a volume of poetry and a key work in the history of Russian Futurism, graphic design and artists’ books. Even the choice of pentagonal pages breaks with traditional notions of publishing, and the poems are equally impressive for their poetic innovation and their unusual design. The most experimental poems in the book, which is printed on floral wallpaper, are entitled “Ferroconcrete Poems” and explore the spatial possibilities of the printed page beyond linear order and design conventions, thus inventing a new type of visual poetry between the figurative and the concrete.

Award-winning poet and translator Eugene Ostashevsky and designer Daniel Mellis have translated Kamensky’s work into English, focusing their attention on the special interplay between the Futuristic poems and their typographic design. On the occasion of the intricately designed and translated edition being donated to the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Eugene Ostashevsky will talk about Kamensky the Futurist artist, his exceptional work, his multiple references to early twentieth-century popular culture and the challenges of translating Tango with Cows for the 21st century.

The event will be accompanied by an exhibition, also accessible online, from the holdings of the Staatsbibliothek and the translator’s private collection, which thematically revolves around the author-figure Kamensky, the historical interrelations between the avant-garde and popular culture, and Futurist publishing and collaboration practices around 1910.

The event and exhibition will be complemented by the launch of three online material-based conversations between Eugene Ostashevsky and researchers from the Cluster of Excellence “Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective” at Freie Universität Berlin. Drawing on the rich archival treasures of the Staatsbibliothek, these conversations explore a wider historical and thematic sphere by probing questions of translation and the translatability of poetic artworks, transnational Futurist resonances and the avant-garde fascination with flying.

In cooperation with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz). Concept and organisation: Susanne Frank, Anna Luhn, Eugene Ostashevsky with Olaf Hamann and Sabine Kaiser (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)