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Maps, Borders, and Networks

Artists use maps to tell stories about themselves and their views of the world.

Untitled 2008-2011 (the map of the land of feeling) I

Rirkrit Tiravanija
(Thai, born Argentina 1961)

2011. Scroll with digital printing, lithography, chine collé and screenprint, sheet (approx.): 36 x 334 1/2" (91.4 x 849.6 cm)

The son of a diplomat, Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija was born in Argentina and grew up in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Canada. As an adult, he splits his time between New York, Berlin, and Chiang Mai. The three scrolls in Untitled 2008–2011 (land of the map of feeling) I–III—each measuring three feet tall and approximately 28 feet wide—serve as a record and reflection of his travels.

At the center of each scroll is a digital print of one of the three passports he has held as an adult, complete with visas and stamps indicating the countries he has visited. Overlapping and filling the space around these passports are motifs printed using three different techniques: lithography, chine collé, and screenprint. Many of these elements allude to maps, such as plans of cities he visited and lines indicating time zones. Other images refer to artists who have inspired him. For example, a silhouette of Marcel Broodthaers’ sculpture of mussels in a casserole relates to Tiravanija’s cooking performances, in which he makes a meal for people to eat together, often in a gallery or museum space.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

A technique, used in conjunction with printmaking processes such as etching or lithography, that results in a two-layered paper support: a tissue-thin paper, cut to the size of the printing plate, and a larger, thicker support paper below. Both the tissue and the support sheet are placed on top of the inked plate and run together through the printing press, sometimes with a thin layer of adhesive between them to reinforce the bond produced through the pressure of the press. The process creates a subtle, delicate backdrop to the printed image. Chine is the French word for China, referring to the fact that the thin paper originally used with this technique was imported from China. In addition to China, paper was also imported from India or Japan. Collé is the French word for "glued."

The method with which an artist, writer, performer, athlete, or other producer employs technical skills or materials to achieve a finished product or endeavor.

A stencil-based printmaking technique in which the first step is to stretch and attach a woven fabric (originally made of silk, but now more commonly of synthetic material) tightly over a wooden frame to create a screen. Areas of the screen that are not part of the image are blocked out with a variety of stencil-based methods. A squeegee is then used to press ink through the unblocked areas of the screen, directly onto paper. Screenprints typically feature bold, hard-edged areas of flat, unmodulated color. Also known as silkscreen and serigraphy.

A work of art on paper that usually exists in multiple copies. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through a transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface, such as metal or wood, and the transfer occurs when that surface is inked and a sheet of paper, placed in contact with it, is run through a printing press. Four common printmaking techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint.

A term that emerged in the 1960s to describe a diverse range of live presentations by artists, including actions, movements, gestures, and choreography. Performance art is often preceded by, includes, or is later represented through various forms of video, photography, objects, written documentation, or oral and physical transmission.

A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.

A printmaking technique that involves drawing with greasy crayons or a liquid called tusche, on a polished slab of limestone; aluminum plates, which are less cumbersome to handle, may also be used. The term is derived from the Greek words for stone (litho) and drawing (graph). When the greasy image is ready to be printed, a chemical mixture is applied across the surface of the stone or plate in order to securely bond it. This surface is then dampened with water, which adheres only to the blank, non-greasy areas. Oily printer’s ink, applied with a roller, sticks to the greasy imagery and not to areas protected by the film of water. Damp paper is placed on top of this surface and run through a press to transfer the image. In addition to the traditional method described here, other types of lithography include offset lithography, photolithography, and transfer lithography.

A long mark or stroke.

A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.

Working Together
Collaboration is central to Rirkrit Tiravanija’s work, which usually takes the form of installations and performances. His suite of maps—his first experiment in printmaking—was no different: It took three years and more than 40 collaborators, including master printers and students at Columbia University, to produce.


AUDIO: Rirkrit Tiravanija describes his maps