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.