Bringing people closer to one another is an overt recurring theme in Rirkrit Tiranvanija’s installation art. This is not about works to be looked at, but about how we interact with each other as we cook, eat together, read or listen to music.
Born as the son of a Thai diplomat, Tiravanija grew up in places as different as Thailand, Ethiopia and Canada before settling in New York in 1982 and studying art in both Chicago and New York.
His early works from the beginning of the 1990s took their starting point in exploring the structures that underpin our social lives, for example in the exhibition Pad Thai (1990), where he opted out of employing any traditional art objects at all, choosing instead to cook and serve food for the gallery’s visitors. He continued this practice up through the 1990s, and in 2012 the concept reached a pinnacle in terms of scope at the opening of La Triennale, where he was invited to transform the Grand Palais into the site of vast twelve-hour feast of Tom Kha soup.
In Tiravanija’s works, exchanges or collaborations with participants play a key role, for example in Untitled 2006 (pavilion, table and puzzle), where spectators gather around a picnic table and help each other piece together a large puzzle depicting Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830). In 2004 he received the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss award, presenting an exhibition that put emphasis on political issues, for example by questioning the authorities’ control over media.
For Socle du Monde Biennale Tiravanija has made a proposal for a large scale development of the garden at Herning Højskole: untitled 2018 (have til et fugtigt hjerte) in collaboration with Lær Dansk Herning Students. Curated by Cecelia Lucas Stucker
HEART – Herning Museum of Contemporary Art presents the proposed plans for Rirkrit Tiravanija’s untitled 2018 (have til et fugtigt hjerte). Unveiling a billboard and site markers to the public, Tiravanija will join refugee collaborators studying at the local Lær Dansk language school and residents of Herning for a community barbecue on Midsummer’s Eve 2017. The students and guests will join the artist in preparing grilled meat and vegetable dishes that reflect both the culinary traditions of their new residence and those of their respective home countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Thailand.
As an extension of Tiravanija’s social sculpture practice, untitled 2018 (have til et fugtigt hjerte) is proposed to be cultivated as a permanent public artwork at Herning Højskole. The artist endeavors to collaborate with local farmers and international refugees to cultivate an edible garden of indigenous and imported plants on roughly two hectares of land adjacenthøjskolen and construct an outdoor kitchen open to the public as a site of continuous engagement. The public garden will function as a botanical intersection of cultures and open space for Herning’s new and long-time residents to socialize with family, friends, and each other as well as a platform for the students to complete their Praktik to gain professional experience.
The proposed ground design is inspired by the work of seminal Danish landscape architect C. Th. Sørensen – original architect of Herning Højskole’s garden – who worked within the tradition of Danish functionalism emphasizing architecture as both a spatial and social art form. Taking cues from the marriage of geometric shapes and organic forms in Sørensen’s modernist landscapes, Tiravanija proposes a terrace design for the plants of the main garden reminiscent of the architect’s amphitheaters. The orientation of plants being farmed on each step ascending to the cooking platform offers visitors a vantage point to consider food production and consumption in direct relation to the fresh meals offered.
The project’s title “Have til et fugtigt Hjerte” (garden for a humid heart), refers to a literal translation of a topiary Sørensen created for Carsten Friis Jespersen’s Vibedehus by Vemmetofte, spelling out the Thai phrase ชื้นใจ (lit. humid heart), an expression of humbled admiration at the sight of something beautiful.Tiravanija’s topiary for Herning Højskole will reproduce the phrase’s literal translation into Danish, fugtigt hjerte.
Tiravanija envisions the garden as a community hub oscillating between a functional garden that locals work together to cultivate food and an outdoor space open for the public to enjoy at their leisure. The site is intended to open a new avenue for the refugees as they settle and establish their position within the community and hopefully visitors are inspired to consider and understand where they come from and where they find themselves.In connection with the project are plans to publish a hybrid cookbook inspired by seasonal Danish cuisine, and local, organic crops as well as the diverse culinary heritage of the local refugees encompassing dishes served onsite