Tris Vonna-Michell



The exhibition «Auto-Tracking-Auto-Tracking» marks the return of Tris Vonna-Michell to the Kunsthalle Zürich where his work was already presented in a solo exhibition in spring 2008. In his second exhibition in Zurich he will revisit the installation Auto-Tracking (2008), which was conceived last year as part of the exhibition of the same name, and will fuse it with recent works, which were created in the context of the city of Detroit, and the associated – and meanwhile – highly convoluted narratives, and expand it to form a new presentation.

The work Auto-Tracking is based on Vonna-Michell’s stay in Detroit in December 2007. The trip was prompted by an initially insignificant-seeming find by the artist in a second-hand charity shop in Southend: i.e. of video tapes of old RoboCop films. The dark and brutal science-fiction action-thrillers presented a corrupt, crime-ridden Detroit in a dystopian vision of the future. In Detroit itself, Vonna-Michell encountered an iconic ruin of modern industrialization. The expanding metropolis of the 1920s and former symbol of American economic growth as “motor city” has become a shrinking urban spectre. Vonna-Michell re­turned from Detroit with images of abandoned neighbourhoods, derelict buildings, city views and urban soundscapes.

In the installation Auto-Tracking, Vonna-Michell combined this visual material to form a story, in which several narrative strands interconnect. He told stories and recounted the history of places, people and objects and, in this, created a reality that interwove historical facts and fictions in a multitude of possible narratives. The two-part installation consisted, first, of a telephone station, with the help of which Vonna-Michell entered into direct con­tact with the viewers through an intimate dialogue, and, through specially selected images spread out on a table, further developed the performance in oral form with a breathtaking fast-speaking performance. For the second part, an almost identical installation was set up in another room of the Kunsthalle, in which the received calls were collected and archived.

Based on the installation Auto-Tracking, in «Auto-Tracking-Auto-Tracking», Vonna-Michell unites the different narrative strands relating to Detroit from one of his most recent works with the older material to produce a final conclusion: he interweaves the work Studio A (2008), which was created for the 5th Berlin Biennial and will be on view in adapted form in the GAMeC – Gallerie d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo at the same time as the exhibition in the Kunsthalle Zürich, the work Auto-Reverse (2009), which arose from this and was presented at the beginning of the year at the MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, a work created specially for the Tate Triennial 2009, and a performance last year at Tate Britain. With his visual cosmos and the linking of diverse stories – some personal, some acquired, some about Detroit, others not – Vonna-Michell returns to the tradition of “oral history” and allows history and stories, reality and fiction around Detroit to come into con­tact with each other, and explores, not least, how history is transmitted, the facts and arte­facts that serve the truth content of history and the role played by the individual with his/her emotions and intellect in the production and reception of history.

Through Tris Vonna-Michell’s return, the Kunsthalle Zürich is actively pursuing the objec­tive of supporting young artists in their work and consolidating its project for engaging in dialogue with an artist over an extended period.

Kunsthalle Zürich thanks: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, LUMA Foundation