It’s always a good sign when language is on the move – interview with Kinga Tóth about her performance show

You showed me the one with the lyrics ’I bumped the sofa, Auntie’, didn’t you?

Yes! How you remember, it’s been three years since I showed you that one!

Somehow I always get music like that from you (or at the Trafó)…

This messaging with a friend brought me back to the song Néni (Auntie) after three years, and also to its band, Tóth Kína Hegyfalu. I accidentally found a source about how the band came to its weird name (Tóth is a Hungarian surname, Kína is China in Hungarian, and Hegyfalu is the name of a town close to the Austrian border). It was a misspelling, based on the town on the one hand and the singer Kinga Tóth’s name on the other. Only a few days passed until I heard that Kinga Tóth will have a performance show in the Trafó, and I can interview her about it. There is no such thing as coincidence.

It seems that your work reaches all dimensions of arts, from a linguistic, academic point of view through writing and reciting poems to music, all in three languages. Have you even been called a polymath? 🙂

No, but I don’t expect it and I don’t think of myself as a polymath. Otherwise it’s true that “intermediate spaces”, transitions between categories, intersections, encounters interest me, where new hybrid forms and contents can be created. This is the basis of my work: creation of new intermedial-linguistic organisms. In my newest book in progress, Kukoricadalok (Maize Songs), the intermediate space will be silence and emptiness. I’m experimenting with speaking in this space, how contents can be emptied, meanings recoded or deprived. So now I’m currently “disconnecting”, but I’m doing it with combining and mixing genres.

There is a lot to speak about, but for now let’s stay at your performance show. It says you will present six small performances, one reciting of poems, and a video work. What makes these pieces come together?

I’m going to show small intermedial works from the last couple of years, where texts, sounds, visual effects (graphics, montage, video) and live performance are always mixed spontaneously. Connecting to my books, there will be poems and short stories, human and industrial voices, graphics, X-rays, montages, and myself, giving a “soundtrack” with an extended vocal technic. Every small performance is the essence of one of my projects that I’ve been working with in the last 5 to 8 years. My books will appear (Zsúr, All machine, Wir bauen eine Stadt, Village 0-24, Holdvilágképűek, and Kukoricadalok in progress) alongside performance-based works that are still in a work phase (A víz és a lány, Máriamontázsok). Small performances are individual parts, but they will go in a dialogue with each other, some topics, realizations or technics will return several times, and there will be other surprises on stage as well.

The project ALL MACHINE even got an own part on your website. What exactly is this?

ALL MACHINE was the first solo project of mine, still running today, where the performance was based on looping. I’m working with a handy looper pedal, I’m recording and tracks and play them on each other, creating a choir like this. I never distort anything – this is an important point. The focus of ALL MACHINE is the human body machine – what sounds can be bring up from which body part, and how we ourselves become instruments. I also use graphics and video here, as well as printed texts from the All machine book, and this text develops to an “organic sound web” during the performance.

What about the other small performances and the video? Some of them have English or German titles, the video German and Hungarian – do these languages turn up in the performance and the texts you use for them?

I don’t want to explain everything beforehand, I’d rather welcome everyone in the Trafó. What I can tell in general is that womanhood, natural elements like water, building, construction-deconstruction in language, in body, transformation and hybridity will be recurring topics. There will be indeed some German and English quotes from my books published abroad, but it’s not like a poem reciting event with background projection and music. For me, all these forms are equal and juxtaposed, I’m creating a “living text body” from their mixture.

Will you recite Kukoricadalok in a more “classical” way, or is there any unexpected twist in it?

There will be “classical” moments as well, but I’m going to accomplish them on my own way.

An extra question based on the name of your band Tóth Kína Hegyfalu: what do you think about misspellings, misapprehending, random “free thinking” which either makes sense or not? In your opinion, how big is the influence of the subconscious on poetry and artworks?

Misspellings, errors, accents, etc. as incoming, new elements in language interest me very much. I’m researching this topic, and it’s also recurring in my workshops and lectures. I’m regularly holding lectures abroad in foreign languages, sometimes I make mistakes myself, which is a good basis for work as well. Creativity and creation get an extremely exciting influence from these processes, and I wouldn’t even call them errors. Last week I took part in the Alps-Adria-Allianz conference in Graz with a linguist and a poet-teacher colleague, and the topic was also discussed there. Questions were raised about the English “flood” and the connection between English and mother tongue, how inflections, “mothertongueing processes” endanger the original language. I don’t find these tendencies worrisome at all, on the contrary: it’s an exciting question whether mother tongue will be able to create its own versions, will there be hybrid forms, how is code language developing (I’m handling this topic in Wir bauen eine Stadt). I think it’s always a good sign when language is on the move, this is what I’m striving for while using different media in my works.

How subconscious affects creation? I’m a concept maker, there is a well-reflected reality between all my works, so I really hope that subconscious also sneaks in like a virus, disrupting, shaking and turning around these systems. After all, the most important is to play around, isn’t it?