Chinese Whispers is a project in continuous evolution that spreads with multiple modalities the poem Girovago by Giuseppe Ungaretti. The protagonist – accompanied by the constant feeling of not belonging to any country – lives the unending research of “an innocent land”. He moves hoping to find one but he always leaves the countries in which he lived feeling as a stranger.
Nine expats – Italian, English, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Hebrew – have been involved and recorded while reciting the poem Girovago by Giuseppe Ungaretti in their native languages. The number of people involved is destined to grow because more languages will be added.
The project consists of several elements: Chinese Whispers is an audio composition with the recitations of the poem in nine different languages which play separately one after the other. As soon as the poem is recited in all the languages, the recordings start to overlap each other until creating a choir of voices: a community of people that tells the feeling of being a foreigner.
Each time the project is exhibited, a new edition of soccer scarves is produced. The last verse of the poem “I seek an innocent Land” is embroidered on the scarves in two different languages, a language on each side. The editions of scarves produced so far are: French/Arabic (30/30), English/Hindi (30/30), German/Chinese (30/30), Italian/Hebrew (100/100) and Spanish/Arabic (50/50). The scarves are the pretext to spread the feelings of the protagonist of the poem and create a community of people who support each other, people that share or try to understand what it means to be a foreigner.
Another constant element of the project is a libretto containing all the translations of the poem which is available to the public. The booklet is designed to help visitors follow the audio composition in the languages they know and familiarize themselves with the unknown alphabets.
According to the context where the project has been shown – alongside the audio composition, the soccer scarves and booklets – other elements have been used for the poem spreading process, including: temporary tattoos applied by a performer on the skin of visitors, stamps, takeaway posters and banners.
Chinese Whispers is the poem Girovago by Giuseppe Ungaretti
Chinese Whispers is the constant feeling of not belonging to any part of the world, it is living in perpetual displacement while incessantly seeking for an innocent land
Chinese Whispers is and will be many things
Chinese Whispers is the recording of voices reciting the poem in Italian, English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Hebrew
Chinese Whispers is a track that has to be spread: with a megaphone among people in a square, from loudspeakers, from the subway audio system
Chinese Whispers are the meetings with the people who recited the poem: Claudio, Matthew, Lu Cheng, Ravinder, Sandra, Kadir, Shirley, Regina and Nir. And it is Fatima who casually listened to the Arabic track while working in a hostel in Verona and has teary eyes
Chinese Whispers is anyone who feels a lump in the throat while reading or listening to those words
Chinese Whispers is a soccer scarf with the last verse of the poem. You wear it because you feel that verse, because it gives you comfort in the cold seasons, because you are not alone but part of a community
Chinese Whispers is a temporary tattoo. Once at home you hardly erase it reading the verse at every passage of the sponge
Chinese Whispers is a stamp found on your skin after a clubbing night
Chinese Whispers is the Chinese whispers game
Chinese Whispers is dedicated to all the people who leave their country
Cerco un paese innocente, I seek an innocent land, 我會尋找那真正的土地, उस मासूम देश की तलाश में।, busco un país inocente, أنا أبحث عن أرض بريئة, je cherche un pays innocent, Ich suche ein unschuldiges Land, אני מחפש ארץ תמימה