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Talking Head

 


As test-subjects in a twittertubeandfacebook-apparatus, absurd characters emerge following the dictate of current online-occurences. But neither do they obey the apparatus, nor are they recalcitrant, rather, they are moving between the poles, in- and outside the framework. The performers are constructing, direct and live on stage, text sculptures as a form of dance and an ever-new image of themselves via webcam. They are in a state of permanent simulation and mutual imitation, where there is no longer a distinction between original and copy, model and image, reality and imagination. Thus, personality and expression can only be attributed retrospectively.

Photos: Chris Haring, Michael Loizenbauer

The term Talking Head does not only recall one of the most successful New Wave bands of the 1980’s turn of the decade, it also denotes the frame of a close-up camera shot on the speaker. They all stage themselves according to the rules of Cinema Vérite: the show-off in idle chatter, the serious reporter in the newsroom, the artist amongst his art. The body looses its consistency and exists solely as a masquerade; the squall of words and from a constantly shifting identity, which follows the individual fate’s every move.

If, however, we can/may perceive blocks of text as sculpture, as kinetic plastiques of vibrating air, the we circumvent the problematic need for understanding and find ourselves within an installation of Syntax Errors, Over-Morphing, Sound-Poetry, Non-Sense, Sonic Painting – in short: “Meaninglessness”-turned-sound, as a linqua franca for the builders of the Babylonian Tower.

 

Talking Matroschkas or a small Tower of Babylon

Fritz Ostermayer

The glossolalia of Christian antiquity, the automatic writing of the Surrealists, black metal’s growling – those are just some of the numerous acts of speech/writing of the finding of oneself within losing, of the giving up of will, because of a hope of gained insight – or to say it in the vernacular: getting smarter by playing dumb. Advanced Modern Talking Heads have found their place in the web. From the social networks we hear the droning of the polyphonic babble of simulated communication, which won’t give a hoot for the old distinction between original and copy, model and image, reality and imagination, but rather builds its nest in an unsafe “space between”. People tweeting about a state of identity, which will be a completely different one tomorrow. In the biblical sense of the “talkers in tongues” we may be made to believe: we are being spoken by the Web 2.0 – it talks through us Talking Heads on the base of the actual Laws of the online world.
 

The term Talking Head does not only recall one of the most successful New Wave bands of the 1970/80’s turn of the decade, it also denotes the frame of a close-up camera shot on the speaker. They all stage themselves according to the rules of Cinema Vérite: the show-off in idle chatter, the serious reporter in the newsroom, the artist amongst his art. The body looses its consistency and exists solely as a masquerade; the squall of words and from a constantly shifting identity, which follows the individual fate’s every move.

But what is talking head that is of a sound mind (no religion, no drugs), whose experimental goal would be to improvise in various jargons of speech? E.g. the sociological lingo of the explorers of the precariate, the tech-talk of IT wizards, the BA-slang of neo-liberal worshippers of the economy, or – and we’re circling in on our topic: the feverish post structural discourse of dance theoreticians. Is, when an expert raises his voice, all the knowledge with all its specifically assigned vocabulary, speaking from him, or isn’t he rather being spoken in large parts by his jargon? We say: yes, he is. We have to assume this, not the least for reasons of self-preservation, because otherwise we’d be the stupid ones…

Even if all forms of crude parody are to be disregarded, there is, with every form of expert jargon, if only for its tendency to exclude, always an urge for democratic contradiction; be it in the form of ironic subversion of it’s gestus of dominion, or alternatively, by its transformation into different fields of representation, which make it more difficult to “swagger” or make the “hot air”, which always resonates, more quickly distinguishable. Take for example the discursive experiment of placing two dancing Talking Heads on a stage.

So now there are two white figures in the field, a man and a woman. And there are their images, distorted and stretched out live and projected onto the wall as their grotesque inauthenticity. Are they playing scientists? Architects? Installation artists? From their speeches, they could be taken for any of these, for a while. At least until things start moving, they start dancing and the bodies suddenly start talking of something different than their mouths do. And by and by we gain insight: this is proxies of proxies of proxies acting. Or avatars as Russian Matryoshka dolls, the kind of wooden dolls, often wrongly referred to as babushkas, whose seriality is confirmed by their self-likeness, while at the same time being contradicted by their constant decrease in size.

This dichotomy of seriality gives its distinction to the respective discourse, the vocabulary of which – from symposium to symposium -  takes on increasingly self-similar characteristics, ultimately becoming a jargon, which in its nature as an ununderstood, but strangely familiar second language, seems remotely comprehensible to the lay-audience (us half- and quarterwits). At least we suspect what the cryptic talk could be about (my very personal Lacan-Dilemma!). If, however, we can/may perceive blocks of text as sculpture, as kinetic plastiques of vibrating air, the we circumvent the problematic need for understanding and find ourselves within an installation of Syntax Errors, Over-Morphing, Sound-Poetry, Non-Sense, Sonic Painting – in short: “Meaninglessness”-turned-sound, as a linqua franca for the builders of the Babylonian Tower.

Pixel is what we call the “discrete sample” of digital signal processing. When talking of “one pixel in with”, then we mean the distance between two of these, the smallest units of a raster image, say: the nothing in-between, which is always the same size, or larger than the pixel itself. Only millions of pixel talk to as as a picture/grammar. The enormous non-information of the “pixel-with”, however, talks just as well, but within the blind-text of information and communication. Maybe the woman and the man in the white field are performative pixels, including the necessary blind-text, as micro-samples of an image, which would only become decipherable, once the “discrete sampling ratio” is multiplied into the infinite, thus reproducing “reality”. Because when displaying discretely sampled audio/video, even in the best of all pixel-universes, we always only get an “approximation of reality”. That’s all the capacity, the reproduction technicians assure us.

But it is sort of beautiful, that the art of dance, which has lasted as a non-verbal art for centuries, stumbles just at the moment in time, where in return talking within discourses managed to become a dance…