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Rirkrit Tiravanija (Thai, born Argentina 1961)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

Thai conceptual and installation artist, active also in the USA. Tiravanija, son of a Thai diplomat, studied at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto and the Banff Center School of Fine Arts, before attending the art school of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Tiravanija’s practice often involves everyday actions and commonplace materials, as well as audience interaction. His first untitled solo show, at 303 Gallery, New York in 1992, consisted of offering visitors Thai food cooked on-site. In 1995 he presented a similar untitled work at the Carnegie International exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA. At this venue he included wall text that presented written instructions for cooking South-east Asian green curry, which was then prepared for visitors.

The participatory and performative aspects of Tiravanija’s art, combined with straightforward instructions, recall elements found in work by the Japanese Fluxus artist Yoko Ono. Tiravanija’s strategy of audience participation also echoes the approach of the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys in the 1970s, who declared that ‘everyone is an artist’ and also defined ‘social sculpture’ as a form in which dialogue and ideas are an artist’s primary media. In 1999 Tiravanija moved into broader explorations of domestic themes and participatory art with Untitled 1999 (Tomorrow Can Shut Up and Go Away), a life-sized replica of his apartment, presented at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York. Made primarily of plywood, the facsimile of Tiravanija’s home was open to the public 24 hours a day, and was often occupied by students. In Untitled 1999, as well as in the earlier makeshift-kitchen works, Tiravanija conveyed a sense of both displacement and adaptability, suggesting a parallel to the experiences of both frequent global travellers and refugees alike.

In 2004 the Guggenheim Museum in New York honoured Tiravanija with the Hugo Boss Award and presented an exhibition of his work, which had more overtly political tones. Untitled 2005 (The Air Between the Chain-Link Fence and the Broken Bicycle Wheel) was an installation that featured in this exhibition. In this work Tiravanija addressed governmental control of popular media by installing a low-tech pirate television station within the museum, using a simple metal antenna and cables as broadcasting equipment, accompanied by a small wooden structure housing a television set and chairs. On the gallery walls Tiravanija featured the text of the US Constitution’s First Amendment (advocating freedom of speech), a history of radio and television communication in America, and simple directions for constructing low-tech broadcasting equipment. Tiravanija’s support of free speech is conveyed by his choice to broadcast the low-budget film Punishment Park (1971), a documentary on the suppression of Vietnam War protests. The titular bicycle tyre of Untitled 2005 is placed atop the wooden structure and can be seen as a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s classic ready-made sculpture, Bicycle Wheel (1913; destr.). This piece blurs the line between art and the banalities of daily life, as do his earlier works.

Reena Jana
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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