Rirkrit Tiravanija at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York (1999)

R.J. Preece (ADP)
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This review previously appeared in World Sculpture News, 5(4), pp. 80-1 and Asian Art News, 9(5), pp. 109-10, (1999).

Rirkrit Tiravanija at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

First Rirkrit Tiravanija cooked us a curry in the gallery as a performance installation and now he gives us his apartment. With his recent work, Untitled (Tomorrow can shut up and go away) (1999), Rirkrit Tiravanija recreated the interior dimensions and spaces of his three-room East Village apartment with plywood, nails, electricity, a working bathroom, and kitchen cluttered with furniture. How often are we able to cook a meal, take a nap, throw a party, or use the toilet in an art installation? In Rirkrit Tiravanija’s recent work you can do all of these things and more.

Continuing his work of breaking down barriers between art and life, Rirkrit expresses a concern for many artists throughout history. In the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp’s found objects and the work of Joseph Beuys come to mind. In fact, the Gallery publicity pushes the Beuys connection, referring to Rirkrit Tiravanija as the “Bangkok Beuys.” The installation unsettles viewers as they walk into the reconstructed kitchen and completely overcome the “can I touch the artwork” phobia, as graffiti can be seen on the plywood walls.

With the installation, Rirkrit Tiravanija pushes public and private issues with a new twist. As personal space and art property, he situates the viewer as voyeur and trespassing violator. Opening the door, I was embarrassed to find a sleeping art student crashed out on a bed. Could the kitchen cabinet contain art curiosities— or is it simply a kitchen cabinet? Inside, it looked like a kitchen cabinet after all.

It was almost as if you could do anything in the art installation. During my visit, I smoked a cigarette while artist Erik Parker was creating a wall painting in the third room. Resulting in Interpretation of the Situation (1999)— a wall painting within the installation. Erik Parker used a framework looking like a freeze frame of smoke emerging from a genie bottle. He lists art world names and provides commentary. In a world exploiting media opportunities, the must-see installation enabled this media plug for the artist. The relationship between art and media provides the most interesting aspect of the work. With Rirkrit’s understanding that this work draws a crowd, other can benefit from the process.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1961 to Thai parents, Rirkrit Tiravanija divides his time equally between Thailand, the United States, and Europe. A prolific art producer in the 1990s, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s works have been distributed internationally on a worldwide art viewing stampede—including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, and the 1995 Kwangiu Biennale in South Korea.