How to make your words move faster than your brain? ‘Turning turning’ (Sarah Vanhee)

They should call the people from the Guinness Book Of Records. Surely some sort of record is being broken night after night. Amount of words uttered in one hour? Something like that? Or what happens when the mouths of three actors try to be faster than their brains. When they try to phrase every single thought that springs to mind. Correction: when they even try to be faster than those thoughts. Turning turning, a choreography of thoughts by Belgian performer, conceptual artist and writer Sarah Vanhee (performance in English).

Is there a beginning and an end to a thought? Where does a thought begin, where does it end? How does it begin, how does it end? Questions raised by one of the experts you’ll see on two video screens during Turning turning. It’s the kind of question my brain likes to be tickled by, or: why I didn’t want to miss this new performance by Sarah Vanhee, currently artist in residence at Campo (Ghent) and Frascati (Amsterdam).

‘Every moment countless thoughts are running through our mind’, she says. ‘Some surface to our consciousness, most go by unnoticed.’ In Turning turning three performers try to give a voice to this stream of thoughts. ‘How to capture the now in words? How to say what one really thinks, here and now?’

And it goes like this: an actor faces the audience, sets a timer and then jumps of the cliff. From the moment he or she has opened his/her mouth, he/she will not shut it again until the alarm goes off. A seemingly endless stream of words follows. The three performers, taking turns in this endeavour, talk as if they’re trying to run faster than their shadow. It’s not as if they are registering their thoughts and then phrasing them. No: they try to utter those thoughts almost before they arise. And just in case you were wondering: there’s no script, no plan; there are no guidelines nor keywords.

Vanhee doesn’t like to compare this to improvisation. When you’re improvising, she says, you’re thinking of an audience. Of the effect of what you’re doing has on an audience. With Turning turning, it’s not about the audience. It’s about those racing thoughts.
In between the ‘performances’ by those three actors, snippets of interviews with experts are shown on the video screens. They are talking about what Turning turning is about.

Interesting concept. Interesting ideas. But does that make for an interesting performance? Unfortunately not. Sure, it’s funny to see those three actors scurry, to see them struggle to get all those words uttered and to notice the differences (the guy – Thomas Kasebacher – throwing some German words in; a pregnant Ragna Aurich unable to not mention that pregnancy and that big belly).

But basically: it’s the same trick repeated over and over again, and after a while, it becomes tiresome to watch. It made me wonder if they couldn’t have found other ways/’exercises’ to talk about the same subject, to make this more interesting for an audience? And one’s mind isn’t really moving that fast all the time, is it? Don’t we all have moments that we’re not thinking of anything at all?

For a short video clip, click here.





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