Marcus Bergner: Toine Horvers’ BBC performances

There are some paradoxical and mysterious sides to Toine Horvers’ BBC performances. While listening through headphones to live broadcasts of the BBC radio news, the artist attempts to replicate as closely and as clearly as possible what he hears but which the audience cannot hear. All of this relies upon the performer’s efforts to hear and speak simultaneously, something not as easily achievable as that of reading and speaking simultaneously. But in the split seconds that fall between hearing and then speaking, and in the process of repetition, the news has actually become secondhand, old and literarily hearsay. For the English term ‘hearsay’ meaning unsubstantiated information, provides an apt and concise way of reflecting upon the nature and direction of these performances. As there is no gap between ‘hear’ and ‘say’ in this term, similarly Toine tries to allow for no pause or break between what is heard and what is spoken, and which, as mentioned already, proves to be an impossible task. But nonetheless he stays as close to the news broadcasts as possible, which includes replicating and mutating the subtle inflections and nuances of the English broadcaster’s speech patterns. All of which requires concentrated levels of attention and mimicry, aspects or qualities that are as poetical as they are wonderfully quotidian. Hearing the push and pull between different lingual accents or resonances offers a strangely captivating focus to this simple yet remarkably illuminating mode of performance. Jean Francois Lyotard’s description of Marcel Duchamp being more ‘a transformer’ than ‘a performer’ could just as easily be applied to Toine’s role in these performances. As he sets out to purely transmit, transmitter of only what he himself has received by way of the live broadcasts, and in so doing ‘transform’ his own speech in various nuanced and subtle ways. By attempting to repeat verbatim and in-unison with the news, Toine’s power of speech spasmodically and involuntarily stumbles and staggers as his mouth becomes incapable of keeping up with his ears, or perhaps it’s the other way around, as hearing becomes distracted and sabotaged by habits of the mouth. The authority and certainty of the news is consequently both undermined and reversed by such a basic and, in a sense, innocent process of mimicry. For Toine’s action of transformation and reoccupation brings attention to the often vaporous, essentially nescient and ultimately alienating nature or content of such news broadcasts, in which real life occurrences, tragedies and experiences are reduced to the most superficial and skeletal pieces of information, or should we say misinformation and informational earwax.
At the moments he fails to replicate what he hears, Toine involuntarily delivers, gently blurts out, a series of exquisitely layered vocal affectations and distortions that range from brief instants of mumbling and spluttering to a kind of semantic burping or blurriness.  Overall there is an oracle-like presence and aura arising from these performances, as the impersonal and neutral aspects of the news broadcasts are intrinsically transformed and re-inhabited through such an embodied and event-laden act of mimicry or recall. Also generating fits of laughter and humor within those witnessing this, and who recognize at certain points the way language falls apart at the edges revealing its unconscious and accidental other or inner side.  Such hidden and unpredictable aspects are always present and at work in language but only occasionally and accidentally become recognizable or conscious.  In fact, it is as if the artist pronounces and induces the intrinsic and mysterious quality of echo or audio shadow that’s an inherent part to all spoken language.  Listening to these performances one finds oneself attending to, fantasizing about that intermediate but muted inner voice which drives and accompanies processes of listening or speaking.  An underlying sense of abstraction and otherness emerges from Toine’s redelivery and transformation of the formal and authoritarian modes of speech adopted by newsreaders.  Everything we hear is now disconnected from the original denotative and illocutionary intentions and impact that it had originally been cast or directed towards. And as such, one can palatably recognize, and reflect upon, the capacity of human language, and specifically speech, to engender more playful and different types of presence or experience beyond that of producing meaning and straightforward acts of communication.  This includes forms of mis-speech or ‘strange speech’ becoming an imaginative basis to musicality and poetical expression arising from within the actual grain or body of the voice. At the core of these performances one recognizes the voice’s capacity for instigating and revealing original but also enigmatic instants of presence, and, as such, bringing attention to the way, as the psychoanalyst Denis Vasse has explained:
“ The voice is never represented: it represents, it is the act of presence which represents itself.”
Marcus Bergner

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