Queering the Language with Astrid Lorange

Nick Cave's personal dictionary

ASTRID LORANGE is Sydney based poet, performer, researcher and academic whose recently publish book ‘How Reading is Written’ explores the legacy of Gertrude Stein and challenges the settled conventions of language. Astrid believes that language – both in writing and reading – should be open for experimentation; always kept fresh and innovative. Language, in other words, should be a constant discovery. On Friday 27 February, I interviewed Astrid on Eastside Radio 89.7FM. 

In How Reading is Written, Astrid explores the concept of “language as material” in view of which the language is “entirely open to and subject to, and dependent on change and transformation.” Approached as material, the language is constantly renegotiated and the attention is drawn to its mode of production. This constant inquiry into the ways that the language was/is produced (by whom, for whom, and for which purposes) has a valuable socio-political function. “Language has an intimate connection to social and political life,” says Astrid. “If we challenge the language’s tendency to be habituated, or attached to meanings that we assume as natural and normal (like for example gendered language) then we have a far better chance of having a kind of socio and political life that offers alternative or that can offer the points of resistance to hegemonic structures of power.”

Such questioning of power and ideology constructed through language is closely related to, and can be seen as equivalent to queer aesthetic where queer is seen as that which disrupts status-quo and questions the ways in which certain norms achieve privileged position in society. “I think that this notion of approaching language against its possibility of being normative is definitely queer and takes a queer approach. Queer theory and queer politics is vital in all of this kind of critics of power including the critic of the power of language.”

When approaching language as material, the reader her/himself is involved in a creative process that “is itself a kind of writing – an inscriptive thinking.” Reading becomes a quest for something new, something that was not previously thought of or experienced. We are actively engaged in the task of imagining and re-imagining. The tools for reading and decoding the meaning are not given and we are encouraged to question the very limits of previously learned reading methods. “The reader must construct the new methodology in order to make reading possible – to set up a temporary laboratory in which the text’s propositions are experimented and played with.”

This “affective, constructive process involves the whole body” and what happens to the body during the activity of reading is as interesting as the text itself. What is more, in this kind of reading the distractions are encouraged. Here, Astrid quotes Tan Lin’s theory of “ambient reading” which encourages the multiple attentiveness; it encourages the readers not to be dismayed by distractions but to take the distractions up and let them enter the text, let them enter the reading experience.

Astrid Lorange

Astrid is currently curating Conspiracy Talks series at the Minerva Gallery (Potts Point, Sydney). For info on this follow @talksconspiracy

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