Tris Vonna-Michell at T293, Frieze London 2012
Arranged along a concertina of card, a series of b&w photos of a large estate somewhere - a house, a lake, a monument, a landscape carved into sweeping grounds - projects a timeless air of moneyed tranquillity. The serenity’s disturbed, however, by a commentary on headphones, where a demented voice half-chants half-sings desirable acquisitions for such a country pile: avenues, hahas, the works. With the headphones arranged at either end of the concertina, the likelihood of encountering a stranger grinning as sillily as you half way along is high. You replicate the passing nods and smiles of a country walk in the unlikely setting of a busy art fair.
By chance I recognized the estate in the photos as Gibside, a National Trust property near Gateshead. Built by a family with mining money, Gibside is a testament to the kind of overreaching Vonna-Mitchell’s maniacal commentary evokes. Their projects included a ‘Column of Liberty’ built by estate workers in appalling conditions, a stable block so grand it was mistaken for the house and a house so elaborate it quickly fell into ruin.
Vonna-Michell, it turns out, has been in residence with the National Trust at Gibside and this work is a by-product, or perhaps a foretaste, of his show at Baltic in Gateshead which opens on 20 October. On the basis of this teaser, I’m curious to see it.