Intersemiotic Intepretation is my master thesis and tries to understand the effects when a same poem is translated into different semiotic channels or media. This research applied artistic research methods and uses the German poem “Kleine Aster” by Gottfried Benn as case study. Two translations have been created and evaluated by questionnaires to understand how the artworks are seen.

The first translation is a installation by using thermal printer on loop paper, the second translation is a information graphic. 

Master thesis at Aalto University
Artistic Research
Research Products: Installation and Information graphic
Year: 2020
Tools: Arduino, Adobe Illustrator

intersemiotic transposition — from one system of signs into another, e.g., from verbal art into music, dance, cinema, or painting.” (Jakobson, 1959, p. 238)

The poem

Kleine Aster tells a story of a drowned beer-carriage driver whose corpse gets prepared. The driver has an aster flower between his teeth but while the lyrical subject prepares the corpse, he notices that the flower is not anymore in the same position, instead, it lies in another brain next to it. So, he places it back in the corpse’s chest before he closes it and wishes the flower to drink and rest well.

Translation: To my beloved Aster

Hardware: 4 thermal mini printers, Arduino Mega, PIR sensor
Software:  Coded in Arduino IDE 

“To my beloved Aster” is an approach to translate the poem into an art installation. It is activated by the viewer when entering the space, and four thermal printers are printing the poem “Kleine Aster” but separated in word classes of the subject, object, verb, and adverbial. The printers use looped thermal paper rolls and over time the prints become unreadable as the words are written and rewritten on the same paper over and over again.
The construction of the installation represents the autopsy in the poem. The printers in the installation are showing the protagonist who is separating the body in a numb and mechanical process. Nonetheless, the viewer ends up focusing on the prints themselves like the lyrical narrator is keeping their eyes on the aster. Similarly, like the flower, the prints are stuck in the body of the work and they will become worthless since they are “dying” due to their illegibility. 


Translation: Isotype

With the usage of the Isotype principles, a visualisation of the poem was created. The title should immediately give an impression of the visuals and a connection to the topic: the process of the pathologist around the year 1912, since the source is the poem was written in this year. Therefore, the pictograms should be immediately seen as corpses. The y-axis represents several corpses and due to the dehumanisation, they are just represented as an object with numbers such as “Corpse 1”, while the x-axis represents the steps of the pathologist: for this the detailed steps are left out and just represent the opening of the body and then the closing. Further, the utilisation of the pictograms should strengthen the point of generalised illustration with no details. The text is written in German as the original and in English which should serve as lingua franca to support enough to understand the graphics completely; however, the visualisation should be also understandable without any text.


The conducted survey for gathering the impressions of each translation has revealed that both translations could convey what they intend to, but neither of them could mediate all aspects of the original poem. Moreover, the intersemiotic process shows the difficulties in finding the equivalences of all qualities of the original poem. Besides this, the space of interpretation and the faithfulness to the source text is affecting the translation and the choice of the possible target medium. Finally, the gathered feedback for each created translation shows that both translations evoked the aimed message, but neither could gather all interpreted aspects of the poem from the perspective of the translator/artist.

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