Unique video installation ‘Chew the Fat’ to open

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.

Visual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija (right) goes fishing with Carsten Höller in one of the many scenes from the documentary “Rirkrit Tiravanija: Chew the Fat” opening at Kemper Art Museum May 8.

Beginning May 8, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum 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.

“Chew the Fat (A Documentary Portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija)” — shown at WUSTL 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 international artists 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.

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 Höller, walks the California desert with Zittel and checks e-mail with Gillick.

He visits Pardo’s spacious Los Angeles studio and Peyton’s Long Island porch and then receives a visit in Thailand from Huyghe. In Paris, Tiravanija drinks wine with Parreno and strolls along the Seine with Gonzalez-Foerster. He visits both Bulloch and Gordon in Berlin and then rides a train across Germany with 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.

“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,” Butler said.

In keeping with that sense of playfulness, the exhibition transforms Kemper 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 parti-cipants.)

Born in Buenos Aires in 1961, Tiravanija attended high school in Bangkok and 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)” transformed a New York gallery into a restaurant offering free bowls of curry and rice in 1992, 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,” for which he enlisted young Thai artists to make pencil drawings based on news photo-graphs.

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.

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 divides his time between New York, Berlin and Bangkok.

The exhibition will open with a reception at 7 p.m. May 8 and remain on view through July 27. Both the reception and exhibition are free and open to the public.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Butler will lead a pair of special tours at 2 p.m. 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. June 26.

For more information, visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu or call 935-4523.