Talking Head

“So funny that my face collapsed!”

“It was nice to watch because I didn’t have to think myself at all. Talking Head did it for me.”

“Why isn’t theatre like this? Every second was interesting because you didn’t know what’s gonna happen next, where will his mind go. Electrifying.”

“It was this performance in 2002 that inspired me to become a theatre artist.”

“The only performance I’ve ever watched until the end.”

“Fierce, hilarious, haunting.”

 * reactions from the audiences

photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

1. TALKING HEAD – THE PERFORMANCE

A dream come true. One-man show in which the performer speaks everything that comes into his mind in the moment. Everything. A head filled with intimate thoughts, memories, observations from the surroundings and the audience, notes of feelings and bodily sensations, cultural imperatives, unavoidable trash and momentary flashes of insight. What does he think when he sees you? What does he think while he executes a task like ”Do the Marina Abramović in MoMA”?
The key experience is not the content of the head that oscillates between funny, provoking and bland, but the presence of a living mind that is never silent. The performance reveals how we are entwined in a hidden interactive process. Spectators’ reactions effect the performer immediately. Besides following the performer, the spectator is also following his or her own thoughts and sometimes the division between the performer and the spectator may disappear…
Talking Head is Director, Scriptwriter and Performer Janne Saarakkala, who’s been performing this unique performance since 31 August 2001 visiting several occasions; festivals, happenings, theatres, meetings, libraries, schools, out-door locations. The latest performances took place in Mad House Helsinki in spring 2016 and in Kiasma Theatre, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki in May 2015. Talking Head was created and first peformed in Reality Research Centre in 2001.

Duration: 45 to 60 minutes (or more)
Language: English or Finnish
Personnel: 1 person

Each performance includes 1-3 tasks, most of which I don’t know all about before hand. I’m willing to connect them with the agenda of the host. For example in each Kiasma performance I reacted to a random Robert Mapplethorpe photo as the museum was running a retrospective exhibition at the time.

Video excerpts from FLUXEE TURKU CLUB 2013 (in English).
Video trailers from Kiasma Theatre 2015 (in Finnish).
Whole performance documented on video from Kiasma Theatre May 28 2015 (in English). Ask for password.

2. TALKING HEAD INSTALLATION: HEART OF DARKNESS

I’m enthusiastic to accompany the performance with an additional participatory installation. In Kiasma it was a participatory video installation Face-to-face with Talking Head available for the museum visitors for three days.

My new installation plan is “Heart of Darkness”. A dark room in which you can lie down and listen to the thoughts of Talking Head and, if you want to, you can enter a cabinet and sit face to face with Talking Head and become the target of his thoughts. In the cabinet you can also attempt verbalising your own stream of consciousness at will. All thoughts spoken in the cabinet are amplified and heard in the dark room, but no-one is seen in person.

* * *

Talking Head on Kiasma Theatre stage, photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

”…As an audience we become part of [Talking Head’s] observations and thus declared counterparts of the performance. We become aware of each other, of our influence on the performance, and of the capacity of Saarakkala’s speech to fill our minds to some extent. The flow of speech is understandable and easy to follow. It includes surprisingly wholesome observations. Reflecting repetitive remarks and reactions makes the Talking Head and the audience laugh.

Intrinsically the performance is rewarding in many levels even without trying to construe it objectively. That said, as a writer, I cannot avoid observations in retrospect. The mental images, continuous self-awareness, the different commands one takes upon oneself and commenting them bring various layers to the speech. The enjoyable superficiality of it reveals the social standardization of thinking and the ecological interaction of the body.”

Marja Silde, Teatteri&Tanssi -magazine 5/2015

photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen

 ”In the beginning I was interested in the content of my thoughts. But soon I came to the conclusion that there’s nothing much in them. My head is banal. Wisdom or ‘deep thoughts’ are only reached through a lengthy discourse between concentrated thinking and flashes of intuition. That is not the target of this performance. I’m not here to present results of thinking, I’m merely thinking. Besides few tasks, that’s all. I have no topics to talk about or outlines to concentrate on. There’s only this moment and what I’m thinking right now, what I feel, what I remember, what I observe.

Talking Head feels like a hectic labyrinth in which numerous doors are constantly opening in front of me. When I open my mouth and describe what I see through one door – that opens a number of new doors – I’ve subconsciously chosen something to share with you and the rest stays unverbalised no matter how fast I speak. Today I’m interested in this subconscious supervision. Also the inability of speech to share not more than a tip of the iceberg fascinates me, and even more so, the other, more subtle ways of communication through which I’m approaching you as I speak. They may reveal more of me (and you) than the talking.”

Janne Saarakkala, Kiasma Theatre program 2015

In Mad House Helsinki, April 2016. Photo: Saara Autere

In Mad House Helsinki, April 2016. Photo: Saara Autere

Monologifestari in Espoo, May 2016. Photo: Ilkka Peltola

Monologifestari in Espoo, May 2016. Photo: Ilkka Peltola

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Executing a task in Monologifestari in Espoo, May 2016. Photo: Ilkka Peltola

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