Our lives are immersed in ephemeral digital media and we are no stranger to constructing and archiving narratives on social media. When it comes to personal and collective histories, however, few have gone through the process undertaken by Tris Vonna-Michell. Using spoken word, photographs and objects, Vonna-Michell, a British artist who started a residency in January at Darling Foundry, creates spaces where the personal and the historical collide.
The VOX centre de l’image contemporaine is presently showing four pieces by Vonna-Michell, Prelude: Capitol Complex, Postscript (Berlin) III, Prelude: Capitol Complex, Capitol Complex / Le Capitole de Chandigarh and Finding Chopin: Dans l’Essex until April 12th. Opening up his process of memory to our eyes and ears, we experience what Tris Vonna-Michell has chosen to preserve, repeat, and modify often over periods of several years.
The installations offer both visual art and spoken word carefully arranged using analog and digital media. Kodak Ektagraph AMT III slide projectors are synchronized with digital sound recordings, while carefully selected objects are included along with a video in Finding Chopin. You can also find a Telex projector at the beginning of the exhibit. One can find a vast array of influences, in addition to media, from Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture to the emergence of sound poetry. These influences often arise from time spent traveling.
The exhibits give a look into how disparate connections and interests can form both a visual and oral narrative. Finding Chopin was inspired by Vonna-Michell’s father’s remark that their old neighbor, an avant-garde French artist and sound poet Henri Chopin, had influenced their move to Essex, England.
The arrangement of objects and photographs in Finding Chopin has remained largely the same for almost ten years, with small purposeful changes- much like creating and recreating memories. There is no fear of the vernacular, or everyday objects that spark a particular memory, but it is the words of Vonna-Michell that give you the experience of what they recall. “After we heard him perform, we found that it becomes personal for you in a way,” noted VOX coordinator Geneviève Bédard, “it is integral to the work.”
Objects and photographs can often fail to give the whole story, but when combined with spoken word it is possible to gain a richer experience and contextualization. Each exhibit is adapted to the exhibition location, and each iteration is unique. The non-linear and stream-of-conscious nature of the work eludes finality.
“History or art history is a construction, and you need to see the parts that have been left out and revisit the practices,” added Bédard. Supporting critical and experimental practices in the visual arts is a strong mandate at VOX, along with supporting emerging talent.
The VOX centre de l’image contemporaine (2 rue Sainte-Catherine Est) will be offering a unique opportunity to experience a live performance of the spoken word component of Finding Chopin on Saturday, March 1st at 11:00 pm sharp.
* Top image by Michel Brunelle. “Tris Vonna-Michell”, VOX, from February 7 to April 12, 2014.