Louise Stern: the line that (…) Q&A

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Extractions (film still) – Louise Stern

In relation to your own practice, how do you define the notions of dialogue and translation?

I don’t define them. I am drawn to the instinctive human need to communicate and how strong urges and feelings are filtered through various sieves; language is a prominent one, as is translation.

To what extent does miscommunication or mistranslation perform a role in your creative practice?

As a creative person you want to look at the spectrum of human experience. Not feeling understood and not feeling that you understand others leads to suffering.

Within both dialogue and translation, does the concept of ‘loss’ have any function and meaning?

As we go about our daily lives, I think we often forget, out of necessity, how many levels of understanding and sensing are bound up in communication. Looking at the concept of loss within dialogue and translation is a way of reminding ourselves of that.

Would you argue that loss has a transformative power in dialogue and translation?

Pain is a strong transformative power. Among other things, it can lead us towards empathy and unconditional love. An awareness of loss in dialogue and translation can function the same way and lead us towards a more honest and essential way of communicating.


Louise Stern grew up in Fremont, California, the fourth generation deaf in her family.  Her art, which is based around ideas of isolation, communication and language, has been exhibited in Geneva, London, New York City, Paris, Madrid, and other places.  Her book of short stories, “Chattering”, was published in 2011 and her novel, “Ismael and His Sisters,” came out in 2015, both with Granta.  She also works in performance.  Upcoming projects include a show at The Society Club, London. 


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