Tris Vonna-Michell

Henri Chopin: Revue OU, 2008

Digital video, 2008
Director & Producer: Tris Vonna-Michell

Video documentation of Henri Chopin´s collection of Revue OU publications. Filmed at Cubitt, London, in conjunction with the exhibition, Henri Chopin: Three Minutes, 10 October - 9 November 2008, curated by Bart van der Heide, Caterina Riva and Tris Vonna-Michell.

The avant-garde poet and publisher Henri Chopin (Paris, 1922 – Norfolk, 2008) is widely considered to be a pioneer in the recognition and distribution of sound-poetry. Since the 1950′s his prolific independent production has featured collaborations with avant-garde notables such as Raoul Hausmann and William S. Burroughs, whilst establishing an audience for an artistic practice that was yet to find one. His personal production — consisting of typewriter-poems and sound performances — is an inspired attempt to open the medium of poetry into a form described by Chopin as ‘a poetry of spaces’: demonstrating ‘the sensory superiority of sound as opposed to normal speech, and […] free man from the straightjacket of words and letters and from his obedience to didactics.’

As part of the exhibition Henri Chopin: Three Minutes, Cubitt Gallery hosted the private archive of Henri Chopin which included a large selection of his printed matter, typewriting-poems and records. The conceptual function of this exhibition was to represent the first three minutes of a proposed documentary production on Chopin by Tris Vonna-Michell. During his lifetime Henri Chopin has been an important part of Vonna-Michell’s production, featuring as one of the protagonists in the installation he conceived for Cubitt in October 2007. Henri Chopin: Three Minutes was devised into two parts: Vonna-Michell’s gallery installation, which combined his own work with Chopin’s and the archive, fully accessible and readable for the first time in a public space.

The archive included a complete collection of his publications Cinquième Saison and Revue OU, which feature unique collaborations with Dadaists (such as Raoul Hausmann), Surrealists (such as Ladislav Novak and Brion Gysin), Lettrists (François Dufrêne), Fluxus and Concrete Poets (such as William S. Burroughs and Bob Cobbing). In retrospect these publications can be seen as unique ‘hard drives’ of early modernism which continue to influence and inspire the making of writing, performance and poetry. The individual publications are exhibitions in themselves, comparable to Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Boîte-en-valise’: housing an entire oeuvre in small models of different format, medium and style. They consist of posters, prints, drawings, objects and phonetic records by all the aforementioned collaborators and many more.

This emphasis on the re-presentation of artistic production was addressed through the Cubitt installation by means of material relating to events long past: posters advertising performances and silk screen prints depicting Chopin’s typewriter-poems, in such a way linking his practice with Vonna-Michell’s. This will be combined with a large format image documenting Tris Vonna-Michell’s installation at Bozar Center for Fine Arts, Brussels (October, 2006).