Installation view of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s ‘Less Oil More Courage’ via Kunsthalle Fridericianum
Running January 17-March 15 and April 4-June 21, 2009 at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany is Rirkrit Tiravanija’s ‘Less Oil More Courage,’ a large wall painting comprised of those words. The phrase comes from an invitation that Tiravanija received to a posthumous exhibition of painter Peter Cain. The invitation featured a reproduction from Cain’s notebooks with the words ‘More courage less oil.’ What for Cain was a painter’s mantra is opened to many more possibilities of interpretation through Tiravanija’s grammatical reversal and recontextualizations.
Rirkrit Tiravanija: ‘Less Oil More Courage’ [Kunsthalle Fridericianum]
Kunsthalle Fridericianum to Open Rirkrit Tiravanija: Less Oil More Courage [Artdaily]
Rirkrit Tiravanija’s ‘Less Oil More Courage’ at the Sharjah Biennial via Kunsthalle Fridericianum
Tiravanija first used the phrase in the work ‘untitled 2003 (less oil more courage),’ a small painting, apparently the artist’s first painting, of that black text on a small white canvas. That work appeared in the 2003 Venice Biennale, and the phrase also appeared on tote bags that were given away at the biennale as part of ‘Utopia Station,’ which the artist helped curate. There, it could be interpreted as a comment on the ubiquitous biennial and all its spectacle and social entanglements. Hence, not straying far from Cain’s original dictum, more conviction in art and less material. Tiravanija continued to use the phrase throughout his work in similarly minimalist manifestations. In 2007 at the Sharjah Biennial, ‘green’ themed in one of the United Arab Emirates whose economy is based mainly on oil exports, ‘Less Oil More Courage’ took on a distinctly political meaning, with the work appearing as road signs around the city.
At the Kunsthalle Fridericianum it appears almost completely decontextualized, simply large bold white words against a black wall, with no fanfare or gimmicks, no outside movement or clutter to distract, and no political stage. Here, ‘Less Oil More Courage’ provokes and, as Tiravanija claims, makes us question, ‘How do we, as a society and a community, face our weakness with courage and find the place in our consciousness to redirect the course and path we have been traveling?’