Eriko Kawai’s video Language I Spoke in a Dream explores translation, fluency, technology and human relations. Through different scenarios that often include layered speech in different languages, translated texts and multiple readers, Kawai zeroes in on misunderstanding and mistranslation. She examines the phenomenon of existing in a place where one is not a native speaker of the language, and how the process of communicating which a person can take for granted in his or her own language becomes something to grapple with. This grappling is reflected in scenes that show dissonance, conflict or unease, rather than clarity and concision. Kawai also breaches the boundaries between forms, for example examining the relationship between language and dance, between film and art, between ideas and forms. The issues approached in Language I Spoke in a Dream are by no means isolated; rather, they concern ideas and feelings that are only increasing in our globalized culture. Though tools are being increasingly developed for translation, Kawai’s video extends the theory that simple translation does not give anything but a shallow understanding of each other and that true communication involves something both internal and intangible.


By Herb Shellenberger, an independent curator, 2017