this issue contains
>> Cai Guo-Qiang's explosive art
>> Gregor Schneider's hermetic rooms
>> All Together Now: Rirkrit Tiravanija
>> Interview Vadim Zakharov

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Liberating Experiences
Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Recipes for a Communicative Art



His works dissolve the boundaries between art and everyday life, between passive viewing and active participation. For the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, who was born in Buenos Aires, process plays just as important a role as the finished project. Whether he transforms galleries into fast food booths or installs a supermarket in a museum – the 2004 Hugo Boss prizewinner is mainly interested in creating platforms for communication and common experience. Angela Rosenberg and Andreas Schlaegel introduce the art star, whose work can also currently be seen in the exhibition series "Blind Date – New Acquisitions of the Deutsche Bank Collection."




Untitled, 2002
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York

Visitors were disappointed; they expected at least a warm bowl of soup, if not a complete Thai menu from an exhibition of the Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. And he’s certainly known for his excellent soups. Une Retrospective (tomorrow is another fine day) is a show of Tiravanija’s works at the Couvent des Cordeliers, a Gothic hall from the 13th century where Marat’s lifeless body was once laid out and which is currently serving as an interim exhibition space for the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.




Untitled(pad thai),
Installation views, Paula Allen Gallery, New York, 1990,
Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin

The artist, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1961, learned cooking from his grandmother, who ran a popular garden restaurant in Bangkok. Tiravanija likes to relate how he spent a large part of his childhood in the kitchen there. At the age of 19, he left for Canada to study art in Toronto, after which he relocated to Chicago and from there to the Whitney School in the hectic and cynical late eighties of New York. It was here, in his first exhibition at the project room of the Paula Allen Gallery, that he set up a gas cooker and prepared a Thai noodle dish, Pad Thai, for the show’s visitors. Some thought the soup kitchen was the show’s catering and, somewhat perplexed, searched around for the actual work; for the most part, however, visitors sat down and enjoyed the food, giving rise to an atmosphere that allowed for relaxed conversation and for people to engage in free social interaction.



Tomorrow is Another Fine Day,
Installation view. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2004
Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin

The warmth of the atmosphere nurtured a seed of dialogue over spatial intervention, art, and activism, transforming the inconspicuous soup chef into one of the most influential artists of his time and catapulting his art into the holiest of venues for contemporary art ranging from the Venice Biennale to the world’s most important museums. In 2004 and 2005, no less than three major museums gathered together to dedicate a joint retrospective to the artist: the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Serpentine Gallery in London, and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (ARC).



Tomorrow is Another Fine Day,
Installation view, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2004
Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin

And that’s where there was no soup to be had, or even, for that matter, any physically existing work at all. Instead, Tiravanija’s most important exhibitions were talked about, filtered through the artist’s own memory and that of his French colleague Philipe Parreno and American science fiction author Bruce Sterling. Voices of actors relating these memories were transmitted from loudspeakers scattered throughout the rooms; all that could be seen were life-sized plywood models of the architecture in which the respective exhibitions had taken place. In the eerie emptiness, it was up to the viewer to imagine the actual works of art.

"Basically, I create models. My work is a model – you can recognize its structure and use it somewhere else, like a cooking recipe, maybe. I create the recipe, and you can take it and cook something with it or make other recipes out of it. So they’re models that can be ideal, but that can be changed to adapt them to life or individual tastes and desires," as Tiravanija has said in an interview with the curator Dorothea Strauss for the Kunst Bulletin. The fact that that artist wants this to be understood in a very literal sense was something he demonstrated in 1996 in his exhibition Untitled (Tomorrow is Another Day) at the Kölnischer Kunstverein.




Untitled(Tomorrow is Another Day),
Installation view, Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1996
Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin

The artist decreed that the rooms of the Kunstverein should remain open around the clock for the entire duration of the action; inside, visitors discovered a 1:1 model of his apartment in New York. The public was invited to take a bath, cook something to eat, chat, or just hang around and watch TV. For uninitiated visitors, the first few moments in which the familiar boundaries between art and life were dissolved proved to be an experience that was initially unsettling, but then increasingly enjoyable and liberating.

Untitled(Tomorrow is Another Day),
Installation view, Kölnischer Kunstverein, 1996
Courtesy neugerriemschneider, Berlin


Before long, one became part of a community of visitors to a virtual private apartment, and it became apparent that experiencing the art was not limited to contemplative observation alone. Instead, collective involvement was required to activate the unusual, utopian, and even revolutionary situation and to use it as an open platform.

It was precisely this reduction to the model-like plywood backdrop and the unmediated public invitation that enabled the artist to initiate new social relationships. Visitors proved willing to become active and invest time into the project, making “Tomorrow is Another Day” into an aesthetic social event. It’s the human interaction that activates the work, while the importance of the exhibited objects and exhibition space retreats behind the performance aspect. And so it’s no wonder that the exhibition became a setting for the celebration of weddings. For in mixing together the hierarchies between institution, work of art, public, and artist, Tiravanija places the visitor at the center of the work, who, fascinated, recognizes his own mirror image in the person opposite him – and at least a portion of his own potential.



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