Agata Holobut

Stealing Styles: Audio Description in the Visual Arts

Defined as a narration service which makes theatre, television, cinema and graphic art accessible to visually impaired recipients, audio description is not only an enabling device, but also a thought-provoking material for researchers interested in inter-art relations. A contemporary form of ekphrasis, which recreates verbally the visual experience, it raises questions of the borderline between recountal and reconstruction, explanation and expression, description of a work of art and its translation into a different medium.

In my paper, I analyse and contrast audio descriptions of paintings exhibited in British and American museums and galleries (National Portrait Gallery, V&A, MOMA), selected to present a diversity of visual styles and narrative strategies. I approach these texts as intersemiotic transpositions, which reveal different degrees of equivalence to their visual models. Adopting a cognitive poetic view on translation (Tabakowska 1993), which understands equivalence as identity of style, I investigate which verbal techniques used by audio describers help them not only to explain, but indeed to re-express the aesthetic qualities of the masterpieces.

Work cited: Tabakowska, E. (1993), Cognitive Linguistics and Poetics of Translation. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.