Rirkrit Tiravanija, pad thai, 1990
Rirkrit Tiravanija was born into a diplomat’s family in Buenos Aires, raised in different parts of the world, and settled in Bangkok to attend high school. Upon graduation, he continued his studies in Canada and the United States, and now divides his time between New York, Berlin, Bangkok, and everywhere in between. Peregrination—touted as the defining condition of our “global” age in which inhabitants lead “nomadic” lives—comes naturally for the artist. Constant motion, however, does not constitute a raison d’être in itself, but rather suggests a state of being. In his art, mobility is a catalyst for the formation of communities, networks of acquaintances, and lasting friendships within them.
It is only to be expected, then, that “convivial” is an adjective that appears so frequently in writings about Tiravanija’s art. Defined as “relating to, occupied with, or fond of feasting, drinking, and good company,”1 the word finds its etymological origin in the Latin word convivium, meaning a banquet, which is in turn a compound of “com” (with) and “vivere” (to live). Cooking performances, which the artist has done for more than ten years in galleries and museums around the world, are open to interested viewers, art world workers, total strangers, and friends, and indeed create experiences that resemble a banquet. But in a more fundamental way, his work reframes the experience of art per se. It is no longer posited as a solitary, meditative relationship between an object and a viewer, but as a situation in which audience participants are reminded that they are social entities coming into completion only in relation with one another. In that sense, the work is especially representative of the aspect of interpersonal connectivity in 1990s art, which French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud has named “relational aesthetics.”