Rirkrit Tiravanija creates spare yet provocative installations designed to blur lines between art and life, transforming galleries and museums into ephemeral social spaces for cooking meals, playing music and hanging out. In May the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis will showcase one recent project with its exhibition Rirkrit Tiravanija: Chew the Fat, a multifaceted video installation that together profiles a loose-knit group of 12 internationally known artists.
Still of Elizabeth Peyton in *CHEW THE FAT (A documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija),* 2008. Courtesy Talk/Talk Documentaries and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
CHEW THE FAT (A documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija) — shown here for the first time as an independent project, after debuting last year in the group show theanyspacewhatever at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York — consists of a large viewing space in which both a feature-length film and several individual portraits play in continuous loops. Included are interviews and discussions with Angela Bulloch, Maurizio Cattelan, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Jorge Pardo, Philippe Parreno, Elizabeth Peyton, Tobias Rehberger and Andrea Zittel.
Though working across a wide range of media, these artists share certain strategies and sensibilities, often gathered under the term “relational aesthetics,” coined by French curator and critic Nicolas Bourriaud in the mid-1990s. With CHEW THE FAT, Tiravanija looks back upon the motivations and practices of this diverse group, which was united primarily by its interest in the mutation of social space in a global, digital age.
Still of Andrea Zittel (foreground) in *CHEW THE FAT (A documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija),* 2008. Courtesy Talk/Talk Documentaries and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
All interviews are conducted by Tiravanija, and his friendship with the artists — most of whom have been collaborators at one time or another — produces a relaxed and informal air. He goes fishing with Carsten Höller, walks the California desert with Andrea Zittel and checks e-mail with Liam Gillick. He visits Jorge Pardo’s spacious Los Angeles studio and Elizabeth Peyton’s Long Island porch, then receives a visit in Thailand from Pierre Huyghe. In Paris Tiravanija drinks wine with Philippe Parreno and strolls along the Seine with Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. He visits both Angela Bulloch and Douglas Gordon in Berlin, and rides a train across Germany with Tobias Rehberger. (Cattelan, though not interviewed directly, appears through the commentary of his friends.) The result is a series of playful and wide-ranging conversations that capture the spirit of a generation.
Rirkrit Tiravanija: Chew the Fat is organized by Karen K. Butler, assistant curator at the Kemper Art Museum. Butler explains that, “Tiravanija is known for making installations that critique the seeming neutrality and authority of the white walls of the museum by creating playful spaces for social interaction and relaxation.” In keeping with that sense of playfulness, the exhibition transforms the Kemper Art Museum into a comfortably oversized sitting room in which dozens of large white meditation pillows, scattered about bright orange wall-to-wall carpeting, are interspersed with a series of video monitors. The feature-length film, which combines excerpts from all the artist interviews, is screened on seven monitors while five monitors play individual profiles of five artists: Bulloch, Gonzalez-Foerster, Gordon, Huyghe, and Peyton. (Tiravanija is continuing to edit his original footage and eventually will produce individual profiles of 11 participants.)
Still of Philippe Parreno in *CHEW THE FAT (A documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija),* 2008. Courtesy Talk/Talk Documentaries and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1961, Tiravanija attended high school in Bangkok then studied at the Ontario School of Art in Toronto, the Banff Center School of Fine Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Independent Studies Program in New York. His works typically focus on creating participatory experiences and frequently revolve around food or music. Untitled (Free) (1992) transformed a New York gallery into a restaurant offering free bowls of curry and rice, while Untitled (D) consisted of a rock band practice space installed as part of the 1995 Whitney Biennial.
Other projects range from The Land, an ongoing and self-sustaining artistic community located near Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Demonstration Drawings (2007), for which he enlisted young Thai artists to make pencil drawings based on news photographs. With Molly Nesbit and Hans Ulrich Obrist he organized Utopia Station, a plywood platform where hundreds of artists and visitors came together for debate, performance, film projection, and artistic creation, at the 2003 Venice Biennial. He is currently designing a bookstore for the 2009 Venice Biennial.
Still of Carsten Höller (left) and Rirkrit Tiravanija in *CHEW THE FAT (A documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija),* 2008. Courtesy Talk/Talk Documentaries and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
Tiravanija has exhibited at museums and galleries around the world, including solo shows at the Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Portikus, Frankfurt; and the Secession, Vienna. His many honors include the 2004 Hugo Boss Prize as well as the Benesse Prize (2003), Lucelia Artist Award (2003), Central Kunst Prize (1996) and a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship. He currently divides his time between New York, Berlin and Bangkok.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Butler will lead a pair of special exhibition tours, at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 31 and July 12. In addition, the museum will host a free screening of Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait, directed by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, at 5 p.m. Friday, June 26.
CHEW THE FAT (A documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija) originally was produced for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition theanyspacewhatever (Oct. 24, 2008 to Jan. 7, 2009). The feature-length film is distributed by Talk/Talk Documentaries.
Jorge Pardo, *Untitled (Guggenheim Prints) #10 Rirkrit Tiravanija,* 2008. Silkscreen on paper, 39 3/8 x 31 5/16″. Courtesy of neugerriemschneider.
MILDRED LANE KEMPER ART MUSEUM
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is committed to furthering critical thinking and visual literacy through a vital program of exhibitions, publications and accompanying events. The museum dates back to 1881, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River. Today it boasts one of the finest university collections in the United States.
Rirkrit Tiravanija: Chew the Fat will open with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 8, and remain on view through July 27. Both the reception and exhibition are free and open to the public. The Kemper Art Museum is located on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays. For more information, call (314) 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.
In conjunction with the reception, shuttle buses will run continuously between the Kemper Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 8. The Contemporary is opening two exhibitions that evening: Chantal Akerman: Moving through Time and Space and Carey Young: Speech Acts. Both remain on view through Aug. 2.
Editor’s Note: High-resolution images are available upon request.
WHO: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
WHAT: Exhibition, Rirkrit Tiravanija: Chew the Fat
WHEN: May 8 to July 27, 2009. Opening reception 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 8.
WHERE: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, near the intersection of Forsyth and Skinker boulevards.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.
COST: Free and open to the public.
INFORMATION: (314) 935-4523 or www.kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu