People are Rirkrit Tiravanija's primary medium. As a pioneer of relational aesthetics, from the early 1990s he has orchestrated ambitious social interactions that defy typical art classification and rely on visitors for their activation. He also addresses social interactions and injustices through film and text-based works.Read More
Concerned with human engagement in real time and transcending conventional gallery and museum conduct, his communal series 'Untitled 1990 (Pad Thai)' (1990), first staged at Paula Allen Gallery, New York, was more a social-leisure event than an exhibition. Eschewing an object-based approach and deconstructing art practices, Tiravanija transformed the gallery into a kitchen, from where he cooked and served vast quantities of Thailand's popular Pad Thai noodle dish to visitors.
Tiravanija's upending of institutional space and involving the audience in his process has been elaborated over the years. In Untitled, 1999 (tomorrow can shut up and go away) (1999), for example, Tiravanija invited visitors to drink tea together and hang out in a replica of his three-room East Village apartment. This fully functioning domestic space was reconstructed at full scale in the Serpentine Gallery, London for his solo show Retrospective (2005), where people were encouraged to use it as if it were their own apartment—cooking, eating, and sleeping in the space.
It is Tiravanija's skepticism about institutional structures that characterises his practice and has led him to work with propaganda slogans. Looking to this apparatus and to the abstract powers that are at play in society, he produces text drawings overlaid on pages of newspaper like untitled 2017 (fear eats the soul/saturday, january 21, 2017) (2017).
Community action and fostering engagement is never far from his work, as seen in Tiravanija's creation of The Land Foundation with Kamin Lertchaiprasert. This shared plot of land in Sanpatong, Thailand is used for development initiatives including cultivating rice and channeling solar power with input from local and international artists, including Tobias Rehberger and Superflex.