mercredi 23 janvier 2008

Rewind 2007: Tris Vonna-Michell (Cubitt, London)

'Tall Tales and Short Stories'

Puzzlers, 2006-2007. performance at Kunstverein, Braunschweig

Tall Tales and Short Stories, 2007. performance at Cubitt

Some artists make objects, some carry out performances, and somewhere in between there are documents; bits and pieces that claim to record a reality now passed. Tris Vonna-Michell tests the fragile link between objects and their destruction, between personal biography and the slippery business of storytelling, becoming both detective and dubious raconteur. At Cubitt, he’s put together a sort of installation – video, slide projection, framed text, photocopies – that weaves three different projects, or ‘acts’, related to three live performances held during the show at Cubitt. Vonna-Michell is a performance poet and, though these performances might complete his exhibition, their absence doesn’t detract from the show’s strength, which combine these various clusters of documentary and hearsay into a tantalising reflection on memory, history and falsehood.
Much of the installation draws on events during the fall of the Berlin Wall, when officers of the GDR’s Stasi secret police hurriedly attempted to shred thousands of the files they had held on their fellow citizens. Since reunification, archivists have laboriously reassembled the thousands of scraps to discover what the Stasi were so eager to obliterate. It’s a historically loaded theme but, fortunately, Vonna-Michell uses the Stasi story’s symbolic strength to provoke his own absurd, personalised version of that act of disappearance; a text explains how he holes up in an apartment to shred (with a hand-cranked mini-shredder, seen on video), boxes of old photographs. This then links to shreds of these snaps badly collaged onto the pages of old wall-calendars. Fragments of the other quixotic projects – such as his mission to wander Paris in search of the dead composer Chopin – mingle together, layering fugitive occurrences on one another. Vonna-Michell’s acute sense of what it means to record and hold on to lived experience, and the uncertain value of the document, produces a conceptual poetry all the more captivating for its transience and instability.
JJ Charlesworth, Wed Nov 14 2007

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