English Writing of Statement for the Restroom

Jul 22 2012

[Updated, Jul 22, 2012]

定稿了,这个自述/前言就这样了。

Inferring from personal experiences, our minds always wander from what we are doing and where we are, especially when in an unexpected state of privacy such as becoming alone in a public restroom. We look where we might not otherwise look, or gaze at something but not see it, while our minds stray from the gurgles for an instant. What if it was even a restroom with a view?

On the third floor of my office building, there is a restroom with a big window to the sky. Last June after waking up again to the actuality that I would not be able to photograph as a full-time artist, I started taking pictures in the restroom when it happened to be vacant during my coffee breaks. I believed that I would eventually capture something that the office workers on my floor gazed at.

Each picture in the book corresponds to one of those gazes. I know that I can record what someone looks at, but I cannot show how his mind travels, or how far, from the object he looks at. If the photographs taken through the same window with the same composition bring some boring images, then they are boring. Tao Yuanming*’s words, “The carefree clouds float between the mountain peaks,” probably means the boredom logical. By the way, a Chinese reader might effortlessly think that this line is more a portrait than a landscape, a portrait of the author or even the reader himself.

There might be, however, another perspective on these images, which I learned from the first rough sequencing of the photos. The book can be seen as an album of a single trip. The trip lasts almost 90-page long, seemingly through the day and night with erratic clouds haunting it almost the entire time, yet could occur actually during a quick, random gaze. Thus, instead of Chinese classical poems, something else is coming to my mind. Those are La Zattera Della Medusa by Theodore Gericault, The City by Frans Masereel and the paintings with windows by Edward Hopper.

* Tao Yuanming (also known as Tao Qian, 365–-427) was a Chinese poet of the Six Dynasties poetic period (ca. 220-589 CE) and generally regarded as the greatest poet during the centuries between the Han and Tang dynasties. Tao is also the foremost of the “recluse” poets. Tao Yuanming. (2012, May 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:15, June 8, 2012, from http://goo.gl/Nu38a

[Jun 14, 2012]

在给那本厕所写作者自述呢。英文的哦。原想着简单,因为没啥好写的。也因为没啥好写的,挤出来的直接就是英文,半吊子的,那也是英文。

This book depicts a strong privacy that is suggested by being alone in a public restroom. Its readers will be invited to refresh their woolgathering when their mind strayed from the gurgles for an instant, gazing at what they might not otherwise.

Through a restroom window of the business building where I worked in, what I have gazed at for years is the sky. Last June, after settling myself again in the actuality that I won’t be able to photograph like a fulltime artist did, I started taking pictures there, during my coffee breaks, for this book.

With my original intention, each picture in the book means one of that gazes. I have realized that I could record what one stared at but not how far he has traveled, and even prepared to accept a series of boring images. A rough sequencing sprung a surprise for me. I am now happy with the result and enjoying somebody’s rapid trip, which lasted a whole book with ambivalent clouds and ups and downs, and happened purportedly in a twinkle.

On getting a handful of shots, I was obsessed with a word from Tao Yuanming’s poem. I put it on the title page finally. “The carefree clouds float among the mountain peaks,” the foremost of the Chinese recluse poets wrote. A Chinese reader might effortlessly think the line more as a portrait than a landscape, a portrait of the author or the reader himself.

从3日写到7日,基本写成。那些所谓的倒装句,是因为实在不会写正常句子。然后,翻译成中文;虽然没有“要搞懂原意”这一关,但还是得费点心思挑词造句,所以真的是翻译。

这本画册描绘了由于独自一人在公共洗手间而凸显的私密状态。它请读者重温他们一瞬间的胡思乱想,在流水汩汩中走神,对平日无视之物发愣。

我呆看了几年的是天,透过上班大楼的洗手间窗户。去年六月,再一次想清楚自己已经不可能像专业摄影师那样工作之后,我就开始用工作间隙,在洗手间里拍摄这本书。

照最初的构想,书里的每幅照片对应一次凝视。我知道只能拍摄一个人看了什么,无法记录这个人走神走了多远;所以我准备着得到一堆单调的图像。但粗粗串排一次,让我目光改变。我愿意接受现在的结果,愿意观看某人的一次急速旅行,云来云去,跌宕起伏,铺展足以成一本书,发生却只在一瞬间。

拍了三五张的时候,我想起了陶渊明的一句诗,现在它印在扉页上。这位中国最早的归隐诗人写到:云无心以出岫。一个中国人会很自然地把这个写景的句子看成一幅肖像,作者的肖像,或读者自己的肖像。

本想发给Hannah,但如果她要指点的话,不比从前,书面很难细致交流。打印给了李爽,等她有空看。休息那天还在愣愣地琢磨,肚子里根本就没啥英语,琢磨不出啥,又无聊,就发到Google Plus上,想引老外来修改。真有热心的老外; C.J. Shane。她是画家,也是作家,从事过出版,在武汉教过英文;儿媳妇就是武汉大学英文系出来的。她把全部四段都捋了一遍,第三段还请了儿媳妇帮忙。

ZY: This book depicts a strong privacy that is suggested by being alone in a public restroom. Its readers will be invited to refresh their woolgathering when their mind strayed from the gurgles for an instant, gazing at what they might not otherwise.

Shane: This book depicts the state of privacy that is suggested by being alone in a public restroom. Readers of the book are invited to renew their contemplations as their minds stray from the gurgles for an instant, and gaze at what they might otherwise not see.

ZY: Through a restroom window of the business building where I worked in, what I have gazed at for years is the sky. Last June, after settling myself again in the actuality that I won’t be able to photograph like a fulltime artist did, I started taking pictures there, during my coffee breaks, for this book.

Shane: Through a restroom window of the business building where I work, I have gazed at the sky for years. Last June, after accepting the reality that I won’t be able to photograph again as a fulltime artist, I started taking pictures in the restroom for this book during my coffee breaks.

Note: This next paragraph starting “with my intentions,” was very unclear to me. I asked my daughter-in-law to help me. She says the Chinese passage is also ambiguous. She tried to translate for me. I then rewrote the English. Please read carefully to see if my revision is correct.

ZY: With my original intention, each picture in the book means one of that gazes. I have realized that I could record what one stared at but not how far he has traveled, and even prepared to accept a series of boring images. A rough sequencing sprung a surprise for me.  I am now happy with the result and enjoying somebody’s rapid trip, which lasted a whole book with ambivalent clouds and ups and downs, and happened purportedly in a twinkle.

Shane: My original intention was that each picture in the book corresponds to one of the gazes. I realized that I could record what the viewer stares at, but not with how much depth he sees. I was prepared to accept a series of boring images. A rough sequencing of the photos surprised me. Now I am happy with the results. I am enjoying the viewer’s rapid trip through the book going from cloud to cloud, up and down, experiencing each brief moment.

ZY: On getting a handful of shots, I was obsessed with a word from Tao Yuanming’s poem. I put it on the title page finally. “The carefree clouds float between the peaks,” the foremost of the Chinese recluse poets wrote. A Chinese reader might effortlessly think the line more as a portrait than a landscape, a portrait of the author or the reader himself.

Shane: After getting a handful of shots, I became obsessed with the words from Tao Yuanming’s poem which I eventually put on the title page. “The carefree clouds float between the peaks,” the reclusive poet wrote. A Chinese reader might effortlessly think that the line is more a portrait than a landscape, a portrait of the author or even the reader.

文字给人改,最大的感受不是自己英文烂—这我是心知肚明,心如死灰—而是……我称之为“对自己自以为是程度的惊异”,就是一不注意,就陷入“以为人家也和我一样知道……”、“以为人家应该知道这话的前提”的泥潭*;第三段很大程度上就有这个问题。看来,近两年的自我挑剔,收获也仅仅是,看到自己又出这类问题不再惊讶;要在第一版就避免,好像希望不大。这病不是一句“写得朴实些”能治的;关键是你心里有没有某些常识、有没有常识的地位。

*最严重的现象是“以为我这个诗意的比喻的本体和前提人家都该知道”。这事值得长篇单论,用中国国内艺术家尤其是新新摄影师的阐述作病例。不过我没有精神说。

我当天硬着头皮给Shane写解释,就着Lingoes,想到一层就凑一句,句与句根本不考虑要形成一个阐述的段落。

My original intention was that each picture in the book corresponds to one of the gazes of the kind mentioned above. I realized that I could photograph what someone looked at, but I could not tell, with the photographs, how far his mind traveled from where he was (or from the object that he stared at). (So the pictures, taken through the same window with the same composition, might look all the same. But I could do nothing with it.) I was prepared to accept a series of boring images. Then a rough sequencing of the photos surprised me. I learnt that there was a new/second way to read these images. The second way works like: think the book is about a single trip (of me or somebody else); the trip is described with a whole photobook with tens of pages as if it lasts a long time; the trip could actually be as short as a twinkle because it takes place usually during a quick, random gaze; the trip is recorded as a series of scenery that is full of variously shaped clouds, which makes readers naturally think the trip is full of ups and downs.

写完,我有一种自扇耳光的感觉:我能这么写,为什么就不这么写呢。传这些字的同时,我把书的PDF也传了过去。但Shane没看PDF就回了过来:“Okay. I think I understand better now.”看,人家懂不懂,还是因为文字本身。她把我这些话串了起来:

My original intention was that each picture in the book corresponds to one of the gazes. I realized that I could record what someone looks at, but I could not tell from the photos how far the viewer’s mind travels from the object he stares at.  The photographs, taken through the same window with the same composition, might look all the same. I was prepared to accept a series of boring images. Then a rough sequencing of the photos surprised me. I learned that there is a new way to read these images. I see now that the book is about a single trip by me or by someone else. The trip is described in these pages of photographs as if the trip lasts a long time. Yet the trip could actually be as short as a twinkle because it takes usually takes place during a quick, random gaze. The trip is recorded scenes of variously-shaped clouds, which makes me and the reader naturally think the trip is full of ups and downs.

Note: I kept your word “twinkle” because I think you love that word. But I am a little uncomfortable with it. We sometimes say, “In the twinkle of an eye” to express something that happens really quickly.  You could say, “Yet the trip could actually occur in the twinkle of an eye because it usually takes place during a quick, random gaze.”   Maybe it’s just me worrying too much. You know I am a writer so I tend to worry, worry, worry about choosing the right word.

过了一会儿,她看了PDF,喜欢这部作品。

I found the progression of images to be psychologically and spiritually very  meaningful.  I would like to write a review of your photos and book […] You are doing some very compelling work that elicits deep contemplation in those willing to really look. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to look and see.

照说事情到了这一步,把人家给改的话都抄上就完了咯,等着看评论咯。可我是艺术家呀。第二天上班路上,特别清醒,觉得很多意思不对,没被自己说对,不是英文中文的问题。是不是应该这个样子呢—

Inferring from my personal experience, our minds always wander from what we do and where we are, especially in an unexpected state of privacy, being somehow alone in a public restroom for example. We were looking at what we might not elsewhere, or gazing at something but not see it, while our minds strayed from the gurgles for an instant. What if it was a restroom with a view?

There is a restroom with a big window to the sky on its third floor in the business building where my office is. Last June, waking up again to the actuality that I would not be able to photograph like a fulltime artist did, I started taking pictures in the restroom during my coffee breaks when it happened to be vacant. I believed that I would have eventually captured something the office workers worked on the floor gazed at.

Each picture in the book corresponds to one of the gazes. I have realized that I can record what someone looks at, but cannot show how and how far his mind has traveled from the object he looks at. If the photographs, taken through the same window with the same composition, bring some boring images, they are boring. Tao Yuanming’s words, “The carefree clouds float between the mountain peaks,” probably make the boredom logical. By the way, A Chinese reader might effortlessly think that the line is more a portrait than a landscape, a portrait of the author or even the reader himself.

There might be, however, another perspective on these images, which I learned from the first rough sequencing of the photos. The book can be seen as an album of a single trip. The trip lasts almost 90-page long, seemingly through the day and night with erratic clouds haunting it all the time, yet could occur actually during a quick, random gaze. Thus, something else, but not Chinese classical poems, is coming to my mind. Those are La Zattera Della Medusa by Theodore Gericault, The City by Frans Masereel and the paintings with windows by Edward Hopper.

從我自己推測,人們總在走神,無論在哪裡、正在幹什麽,尤其是處於偶爾的私密狀態,比如有時候公共洗手間裏只有你一個人了。我們就可能瞪著平時不會看的東西,或者盯著什麽卻視而不見,在汩汩水聲中走神。如果洗手間還能看到風景呢?

我上班的辦公樓,三樓的公共洗手間有向著天空的大窗戶。去年六月間,再一次想清楚自己已經不可能像全職攝影師那樣工作之後,我開始在那裡拍攝,趁上班的間隙、洗手間又剛巧沒人的時候。我想我肯定會拍到三樓的上班族們走神凝視的東西。

這本書的每一幅照片都對應一次这样的凝視。我知道只能拍到人們凝視了什麽,卻無法顯示他們怎麼走神、走了多遠。所以,這些角度不變、構圖不變的照片,如果看起來單調無趣,那它們就是單調無趣的。陶渊明的话,“雲無心以出岫”,或許算是給這種單調一個理由。另外,中國人一般會很自然地把這個寫景的詩句看成一幅肖像,作者的肖像,或者讀者自己的肖像。

不過,這些照片也可能有另一種讀法,這是我在第一次粗粗排列之後想到的:可以把整本書看做單獨一趟旅行的相冊。經過白天,經過夜晚,陰晴不定的云層時隱時現,這次旅行長達九十頁,卻又不過是在走神凝視的短短一瞬間。這下我想起其他東西,而不是中國古詩了。我想到了席里柯《美杜莎之筏》、麥綏萊勒《城市》和哈珀那些有窗的畫。

还没请人改过。动笔到此,十三天。

4 responses so far

  1. 最近在看Bill Bryson的Troublesome Words,作者在语法方面很有研究,书中举了不少常见的谬误,其中一种是tautology冗余。许多大牌报纸杂志也犯这种错误,作者举了一个例子,Last week,twenty-five years after it was first conceived…(Time Magazine). 这里的first应该删除,因为conceive本身就有初次的意思。常见的错误还有originally conceive和initially conceive.

    Original intention这种说法我总觉得很怪,如果这个intention是作者本人的,它必然是original的,因为这个词既有“原创”又有“起初”的意思,或许这正是引起Shane迷惑的原因。

    去掉original,似乎并不影响原文的意思,如果修改,改成first或early,不知是否更清楚些?

  2. 妈的,Original intention和originally conceived还都是初级英文词典的示例呢。不过我的original intention可能会拿掉,我不想这么强调“原来…后来…”这层意味了。(直接把each之前删了算了)

  3. 就算是陆谷孙编的《新英汉词典》这样的高级词典,也不全靠得住。Troublesome Words一书中有mongoose一词,作者写明这个词来自于印第安语,因此不能套用英语习惯把复数写成mongeese,而是mongooses。

    我因为不知这个单词何义,去查《新英汉词典》,释义里写着 [复] ~s 或mongeese ,还带着mongeese的音标。

  4. 我去买一本来看。Amazon二手的$.49。

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