Art as social document Tiravanija and the art as experience

by Claudia Zanfi

In 1968 Al Hansen, one of the leading figures of the Fluxus movement, stated that “in order to meet people, you have to think up new kinds of art like ‘food-art’”. Happenings, Situationism, Performance, right up to the so-called Relationship Art all came into being not far from the Fluxus movement. Numerous examples of these expressive phenomena were to be found in the recent Manifesta and Documenta Biennials in new forms and guises, thus demonstrating the ongoing reactivity of contemporary performance art.
Rirkrit Tiravanija is undoubtedly one of the key protagonists of these events. A multifaceted and multiform artist as reflected in his own roots: born in Argentina (in Buenos Aires), he grew up in Thailand (in Bangkok), and is now resident in New York and Berlin, travelling widely for much of the time. His travels, banquets, meetings, publishing and exhibiting projects (most recently at the Venice Biennial with his “Utopia Station”) clearly bear the signs of having inherited from Fluxus the notion of ‘non material events’, no longer bound up with the traditional concept of the objet d’art.
This way of experimenting with situations people and urban areas through the places familiar to the artist, using often minimal even simplistic gestures, constitutes a journey into the space of relationships, of common shared experience.
As the artist himself states, “I see everything as an important experience, as a work of art structured in an unorthodox manner. Who is to say how a work of art is structured, or where it starts and ends? My only desire is to be myself and to get this message across. That we have done something special together and yet at the same time very simple: we have shared a moment of our lives. Here, nothing is under control. I do not direct anything; everything happens of its own accord. I see the workshop as a kind of ‘meeting point’, a moment in which people meet and things happen. I am nothing but one of the many passengers on the boat.”
What really made Tiravanija famous were the cooking sessions for all and the ‘instant food’ project, conceived as works of art featuring great banquets organised inside galleries and museums around the world. The value of hospitality (typical of oriental cultures) and of the slow passage of time (typical of the works of Borges and his Latin roots) along with the transgression and desecration of the work of art: these are the ingredients needed to dismantle the neurotic framework of contemporary art.
For Going Public ’05 in Larissa, Tiravanija has created a new installation. A soft orange floor (the color of buddism) over which lay down and relax, watching Tv transmissions: a collection of meetings and talks, realized at “Portikus”, Contemporary Art Center.
Tiravanija himself describes his sculptures and installations as models. He often creates stages, platforms or spaces that can be understood as offers to the exhibition visitor.
Between the skylight and the floor, redesigned by Elmgreen and Dragset for the previous exhibition, the TV session shows a large platform which served as a stage for a variety of projects. The program included concerts, panel discussions, workshops, cooking battles, fashion shows, film presentations, and bar and dance nights. All activities were broadcasted live by the online channel “oVer Channel”, created by Tiravanija, and can now be followed via web at