Witte de With presents the first solo exhibition in the Netherlands of Tris Vonna-Michell.

With his energetic performances, Tris Vonna-Michell (b. 1982, Rochford, UK) adds a whole new chapter to the age-old tradition of storytelling.

His performances function as chapters within an over-arching, non-linear story. They develop in parallel to one another, occasionally intertwining. He tells his stories inside installations that he has created, interweaving projections, texts and objects as theatrical props. During the performances, he takes his audience with him on a mental and physical journey, through which the objects in the gallery space acquire additional layers of meaning or briefly refer to each other. With his tales, he tries to unravel various fictional and non-fictional histories.

The incredible rapidity with which he speaks changes the words and sentences in to a baffling rhythmic and abstract composition. His use of sound reveals how the complex relationship between speech and language balances between order and chaos, illusion and disillusion. His practice is at once structured and spontaneous. Working with a premeditated scenario, Vonna-Michell's performance is influenced by the situation in which he finds himself and new stories, images and associations come into being.

His young but rich artistic practice shows traces of vocal experiments from the early 1920s, such as Kurt Schwitters’ well-known sound poemUrsonata. The post-war forms of Spoken Word by Allen Ginsberg or William S. Burroughs are also clearly recognizable in Vonna-Michell’s work. He ingeniously combines personal facts and fiction in a style reminiscent of an MC’s verbal freedom.

At Witte de With, Vonna-Michell presents a new work that uses aspects of earlier performance series such as hahn/huhn (2004), a wartime conspiracy story about mysterious disappearances in the tunnels beneath Berlin’s Anhalter Bahnhof and Down the Rabbit Hole (2006), where he feigns amnesia and travels to Paris to offer quail’s eggs in exchange for information about his own identity, to avant-garde poet and musician Henri Chopin (b. 1922, Paris). The latter story also exists in another version, entitled Finding Chopin: In Search of Holy Quail. For this exhibition, Vonna-Michell returns to the place where this work began: England's Lake District, where both Schwitters and Chopin once lived and worked. In Witte de With, Vonna-Michell renders this research visible and adds the reconstruction of this quest to his body of work.

Accompanying the exhibition, Witte de With releases a limited edition 7 vinyl entitled Tall Tales and Short Stories, with excerpts from the performance Finding Chopin: In Search of Holy Quail and an original recording by Erik Vonna-Michell from 1982. The idea for the recording was born after the theft of several performance objects from an exhibition in late 2006. The recordings are conceived as a means to reconstruct the original piece.

Graphic concept: Tine Melzer. Price: euro 10.

Tris Vonna-Michell will be present at Witte de With to perform his work on the following dates:
May 19, 20 and 22
June 1, 2 and 3
June 16, 17 and 19 (coinciding with the Poetry International Festival)
7 and 8 July and 4 and 5 August

Curated by Renske Janssen & Nicolaus Schafhausen.

Interview broadcasted by Radio Rijnmond on May 21 2007 with Tris Vonna-Michell, Renske Janssen and Rob Hamelijnck.

—Supported by

IFA, British Council