Monday, June 30, 2008

Lost in translation

When expensive art is sent from place to place there is often a requirement for a courier. This is someone who physically accompanies the work as far as possible and personally ensures its safety at all stages. Nice job if you can get it although there are some grim tales (possibly apocryphal) such as the one about the Rothko left out on an Australian tarmac in the rain. The courier, frantically screaming for a tarpaulin, looked down to see purple-stained water seeping from the bottom of the crate. Now, thanks to a book by Cordelia Rose, that courier could have also screamed that scream in German or in French. Rose’s book is Courier Speak: a phrase book for couriers of museum objects. And what a rich life they live. Checking out the phrases we can see that a courier’s day lurches from the tense “Have my packing cases been loaded onto the aircraft yet?” through the strangely affecting “I will not leave the airport until your aircraft is airborne for 30 minutes” to the introspective “There is too much dust in this case.” The courier’s personal life is also catered for with the handy “I am entitled to a museum discount on my room” as well as the desperate “I do not have enough money to buy food” and the tantalising “What is your room number?” followed by, as life goes in the steamy world of the global courier, the inevitable “Take me underneath the aircraft.”
ERRATUM: Part of the last sentence was dropped during proofing and should read, “Take me underneath the aircraft to see my packing cases being loaded.”