Vonna-Michell's performances and installations function as chapters within a non-linear story, combining personal myth with historical traces.
The performances of Tris Vonna-Michell (born Rochford, 1982, lives in Southend On Sea) are fluent, astoundingly rapid monologues that weave together histories and fictions tangentially related to the artist's own past. Vonna-Michell's delivery has been compared to the seductive, cajoling patter of a market trader, and the incongruity of this comparison is apt - the artist takes as his subject the translation of meaning from one era to the next, and the changing significance of place.
Vonna-Michell's performance hahn/huhn (2004-07), for example, focuses on the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin, a disused train station that was the headquarters of first the Nazis, then the Allies and, finally, the Stasi. At the end of their tenure the Stasi engaged in an intensive destruction of documents, the scraps of which are now being obsessively reconstituted by 'puzzlers' employed by the German government. Suggesting the power of rumour and our inability to really 'know' history, Vonna-Michell's quick-fire delivery is too fast to be fully apprehended, while his stream-ofconsciousness mimics a journey through the Berlin streets.
Vonna-Michell's style is both physical and intimate, and he uses ephemeral objects both as markers within his narratives, and to highlight his proximity to the audience. The artist often uses an egg timer to determine the duration of his monologue, sometimes asking his viewers to dictate this time frame. Consequently, his monologues are both dramatic performances and exercises dictated by self-limitation and external constraints. Props and images used in the performance space - 35mm slides, documents, photographs, found objects - form a web of personal and historical associations, ghosts of previous works and places.
For the sprawling installation Studio A (2008), created for the attic space of Berlin's Kunst-Werke, Vonna-Michell worked once again with the fragmentary nature of historical memory. The installation comprises rooms constructed from remnants of stage sets, employs audio and video clips from the RoboCop series, and is set in the depressed city of Detroit. Turning his focus on the latter city, the artist explores the ways in which its history overlaps with that of Berlin - a place characterised by a flux of wealth, delinquency and regeneration. The space of the installation becomes an analogy for such fleeting histories: the pre-fab walls can be moved to form various enclosures, fluctuating between non-sites and spaces for performance and interaction.
The physical structure of Studio A allows material objects and experiences to become pictorial, while the pictorial is itself projected and verbalised - these processes forming the skeleton for the continuation of the artist's story. Vonna-Michell's work enlivens popular history in an explicitly cinematic manner, shifting the register from a generalised history available to the many, to a subjective rendering accessible only in real time. The artist's Nought to Sixty event will be set in the ICA Cinema - a space that provides a readymade mise en scène for the use of the projected image, and the tentative realities that lead from these cues. Part of a series of presences throughout London, this fragment uses the restraints of its context to reconstitute an incomplete and ongoing narrative.