Tris Vonna-Michell



In two parallel solo shows, Tris Vonna-Michell (born 1982, lives and works in London and Berlin) and Mario Garcia Torres (born 1975, lives and works in Los Angeles) present art works that all circle in their specific idiosyncratic manner around issues like story-telling, narratives and history including also the interface between fiction and reality.

Both artists' works thus consider avenues how histories are transmitted, what facts and artefacts serve the validity of specific narratives and above all what role the individual – with emotions and intellect – takes up in the reproduction and absorption of history.

Tris Vonna-Michell's speech performances and his heterogeneous visual materials are accelerations of an ongoing process of historiography; probably it is precisely their obsessive absurdities that point to how hidden secrets can be elicited from history. By contrast Mario Garcia Torres, by means of deliberate repetition, tests the essence of the production of reality and historical facts in art. His work originates in so-called subjective artistic positing; by means of poetic figures, it debates the relation between objectivity and subjectivity as well as social productivity and factual non-productivity in the creation of a collective history.

In Tris Vonna-Michel's activities, however, the aspect of intimacy is a further crucial facet: He only speaks to a limited number of people – such as to visitors coming to see his exhibition, or to recipients of phonecalls that the artist directs to specific locations. His stories and his notifications are pre-structured as well as spontaneous, since he also lets the audience directly control the flow of the narrative as well as its duration and progression. In Seizure (2003-2007) Tris Vonna-Michell searches for coherence in the biographies and histories of three persons in post-war Berlin: Reinhold Hahn, Reinhold Huhn and Otto Hahn. Through his extensive research – which led him into museums, to monuments and buildings – the artist uncovers correlations which he incorporates into his own story and yet in the course of the narration ever and again derails into absurdity. Using an egg boiler he initially requested the public's attention. In the installation created specifically for the exhibition, slides, artefacts, sound recordings and manifold objects guide the visitor into the narration itself, but also into blind alleys and deviations from their logical development.

The piece Puzzlers (2005-2007) is based on a two-year investigation that originated in a newspaper announcement about the comprehensive obliteration of Stasi files in Germany in the autumn of 1989. With the archive of his own childhood photographs and additionally equipped with scissors and glue, Tris Vonna-Michell travelled to Leipzig, moved into a typical prefabricated concrete-slab apartment building, and dissected his own personal photographs in order to re-collage them together again and thus fabricate a new fictional identity by using the visual and verbal fragments of his own actual past – a procedure reminiscent of the "Puzzlers" themselves, as the secret service operators had been called not only in the GDR.

The new work Auto-Tracking (2008), which is to be further developed over the period of the exhibition, originally evolved in Detroit, the iconic ruin of modern industrialization. Interweaving several threads, the artist assembled visual material into a new overall narrative. Via a telephone station Tris Vonna-Michell will seek to establish contact with the public on a regular basis and will not only evolve his stories viva voce directly from Berlin, but also interconnect two exhibition spaces, the Kunsthalle Zurich and the Berlin Biennale. The parallel stories leading into diverse plot lines are to cumulate in an archival-like recording station within the exhibition and are eventually meant to form the foundation for a large-scale project that will take shape in a unique performance at the Kunsthalle Zurich in 2009.