Bernardo Ortíz has always been interested in language, most specifically in translation. He is interested in the tension between what is translatable and its incommensurability. Or, in other words, the impossibility to compare and encompass the endless possibilities in every act of translation. The sentence “Like a tongue that licks the words of another” refers to the seemingly endless gesture of paraphrasing, be it in one’s own language or another, until finding the appropriate translation.

This sentence, that will become more sharp and precise, and thus more legible, during the duration of the exhibition, was made using an obsolete software from the 1980s, that apply simple algorithms and typographical fonts in the programming procedures. The sentence serves as a background or ouverture to a parallel process of translation that the artist is pursuing in collaboration with a Swedish translator. They are both engaging in a long distance conversation across the ocean, during the months that the exhibition will be on view, with the aim to translate some of the poems of the Colombian-Swedish author and poet León de Greiff Häusler (1895-1976), most known in Norrbotten for being the creator of the fictional character named Gaspar of the Night. In León de Greiff’s story, the character travels to Korpilombolo searching for a haven that can give his soul the rest it needs. Gaspar of the Night, inspired in return what is known today as European Festival of the Night, held in Korpilombolo during the darkest time of the year each year since 2005.

The resulting drawings of the translation attempts of the poems of León de Greiff from Spanish to Swedish, and then from Swedish to visual constellations of approximations, might give an account of the nuances of both the guest language and the hosting language. In fact, translation is really about probing the capacity of the receiving language in accommodating or caring for the foreign, the words of another.


Bernardo Ortíz is an artist and writer. He received his BFA from Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia and his MA from Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia. Some recent solo shows include Low Resolution at Casas Riegner, Bogotá, Friction at Luisa Strina, São Paulo, Brazil, To Erase at Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Selected group shows include 30th São Paulo Biennial, XI Lyon Biennial and 20th Sydney Biennial. His work is found in public collections such as Tate Modern, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; CNAP, Paris.