Human: Insan(e) / ઇન્સાન / إنسان

Yusuf Ali Hayat

Nexus Arts
Nov 15, 2018 · 7 min read

“My parents migrated to England before I was born. Like many people from the subcontinent they tried to maintain as much familiarity with where they had come from as they made their home in an alien, sometimes harsh and inhospitable environment. I grew up with a linguistic mingling of English, Urdu and Gujarati. I learnt to separate these to communicate — although this isn’t the way I learnt to speak and be understood.”

Human: Insan(e) / ઇન્સાન / إنسان is the outcome of conversations between Hossein Valamanesh and Yusuf Ali Hayat, supported by Nexus Arts. It questions ideas of (cultural) translation, emplacement and hospitality.

Nexus Arts Gallery
November 16 — December 21, 2018

Critical Writing & Poetry by Grace Marlow



letters materialised

i imagine the hot metal, each letter bent and moulded with force
a manipulated solid becoming soft with time and heat
through heat a word taking form and with time becoming cool again
a word made, now, to carry itself through a new material
a word, now, that carries weight — a heavy physical weight
active with heat


a word heated to burning point pressed into paper
hot enough to erase and imprint the surface
language as form
hot and heavy


the aftermath of heat


| |


here, the letters are carried over — cut out of board. seeing through.
here, love, an inverse. cut out of. before- burnt into.
light is active behind the surface. pushing through.

a carrying across
in part

| |


Your body, first, before speech.

Your body first, before speech, finds proximity.

How close is too close?

You know you can’t touch it.

Close and you dance with the light of a word.


You can’t touch it but you can see it.


Carried through light.


You are here and you are holding in part an answer/ing

I am reminded of the words my body carries — how is this interwoven with my reading of this work? Here, my body is called into stark light, called to remind me of my importance in reading a work and the role of an audience as an active viewer.

What is between the binary of heavy and light, lightness and darkness, hot and cold? This is a cold white light. Electric. Fire — before. This light doesn’t hold me for — long, We dance in and out of readability. Proximity. This is quick. The shape of the space surrounding slipped. What about slowness?

How might this sound, now?

At times speech fills the space sounding out the distance/proximity between us.

Light creates shadow.

You carry your — self. Each — body.

Weight that is inside with no way of showing; sometimes sounding out.

A silence while listening, reading. A silence before speaking. Speaking but not being heard.


words that are thick


hot and sticky

on the skin


on the skin

a naming through a look

a full stop

a closed bracket

an open


Grammar that divides.

a word that marks the surface of a body — the skin — that is not actualised in ink

A language hanging heavy without physical weight

The space that surrounds a word on a page

a silence that is full

a mark that can’t be seen

the presence of being



Translation is the carrying of words from one spot over to another. Intersemiotic translation is a category of translation that operates between different mediums[1]. This is one form of translation that has occurred across Yusuf’s work Here is Love (again) ||, which translates Hossein’s Here is Love into a new medium. The poetic mode ekphrasis — poetry that responds to visual material — is also an example of intersemiotic translation. Here, I continue this gesture of translation by responding to Here is Love and Here is Love (again) ||.

I write here with the potentiality and limitations of intersemiotic translation and language in mind to form a parallel text that does not seek to be didactic. This seeks to sit parallel to the collaborative mentor based exchange that has occurred between Yusuf and Hossein in the development and presentation of Yusuf’s exhibition. I am thinking through translation and how this can be an act of care to carry and hold another’s words. I’m also interested in what occurs when met with the limitations of direct translation and the losses of expression that mistranslation can encounter.

The practice of the translator is often overlooked. The body of the translator is an in-between body, it is an act of care that attempts to carry over significance from one language into a new language; be it interlingual, intralingual, intersemiotic or a combination of forms. A translator is also a body that holds its own subjectivity: its own cultural, social and political signifiers that mark how it experiences the world. As Yusuf speaks to hospitality in his own writing and through this exhibition I think about how translation may be considered an act of hospitality. The starkness of our bodily activation of Here is Love (again) || pushes us to read ourselves as translating bodies in a relationship with this work — not as passive viewers. The act of experiencing art positions us in relation to artworks, and in Yusuf’s exhibition I am reminded of the active filters each body carries with it in translating and reading artworks.


Here, I sit in the I. I write from the space between the written word ishq: عشق of Hossein Valamanesh and the carrying over of this word into new medium — Here is Love (again) || by Yusuf Ali Hayat. A carrying over that has been informed by conversation as Yusuf has undergone a mentorship with Hossein. A holding onto عشق. Yusuf does not speak Farsi though carries over عشق as an Urdu speaker where the word holds the same. I do not speak Farsi or Urdu. I cannot know. The trying- an empathy, to carry without knowing all. Perhaps this is an exercise in empathy. Like Yusuf, here I have continued to use the Farsi word عشق withholding from translating it into English. In a postcard, Hossein suggests finding a Farsi speaker to translate a poem to those of us who do not speak Farsi. Hossein asks of us to extend the work into a cultural exchange, a opening onto pedagogical exchange that requires a deeper engagement with a body and a language; for some, as a translator — a carrier of this language and its cultural signification into another — for others, as a listener; silence, tongues resting to better understand. The collaborative nature of Yusuf and Hossein’s mentorship highlights an important role of collaboration in seeking modes of empathy, care and hospitality.

[1] Sophie Collins, ‘Three Kinds of Translation’, Currently & Emotion: Translations, Ed. Sophie Collins, p 26. Test Centre, London, 2016.

Grace Marlow is an artist practicing on Kaurna Country (Tarndanya/Adelaide Plains). At this time, Grace is working across performance, writing and collaboration to (in)form a practice of interruption that questions understandings of authorship and value. I locate myself in this practice in conversations about labour and gender. Interwoven with practicing as an artist, Grace works as a retail sales assistant, as an arts worker, and as a facilitator of projects and exhibitions at artist-led initiative Sister.

Yusuf Ali Hayat moved to Adelaide from Leicester, England in November 2007. He is committed to social justice and has worked in leadership positions for several international NGO’s. He is currently a PhD candidate at UniSA, his research interests are trans-cultural ethics and inter-subjectivity in art.

Yusuf was awarded The City of Adelaide Award at the 2018 Uni SA Graduate Exhibition, received the British School at Rome, the BSR residency and is a Helpmann Academy regular grant recipient.

Hossein Valamanesh was born in Iran, immigrated to Australia in 1973. He graduated from South Australian School of Art, 1977 and has exhibited in Australia and overseas including Germany, Poland, Japan, Finland, UK, Canada and Iran.

Valamanesh works with different media from installation to sculpture, painting and collage. Inspired by personal experiences and memories, he uses ordinary objects and natural materials to create visual poetry that reflects on his life in Australia and his experiences of his birthplace, Iran.

He lives and works in Adelaide, South Australia and is represented by GAGPROJECTS Adelaide, Grey Noise Dubai.

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