On Saturday night, Rirkrit Tiravanija opened a new exhibition at Gavin Brown Enterprise in the West Village, completely redesigning the gallery space and re-purposing various rooms in order to host a dinner party of sorts. The show, entitled “Fear Eats the Soul” was named after the 1974 Fassbinder film “Ali – Fear Eats the Soul” which portrayed the story of two lovers together in Germany, who live in opposite worlds and fight to protect their love from racial tension and the scrutiny of others. Tiravanija himself comes from a widely diverse background; he was raised in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Canada and currently divides his time between New York, Berlin, and Bangkok. His acute global awareness certainly has an influence in this exhibition, which features a T-shirt printing factory producing shirts with equally politically-aware and nonsensical slogans in block print. The slogans feature a range of phrases, from solemn ones such as “BEHOLD YOUR FUTURE EXECUTIONERS” to silly word games and statements like “BRING ON THE LOBSTERS” which are hand-screened onto plain T-shirts.
More text and images after the jump…
Tiravanija, a professor at Columbia University’s School of Visual Arts, has always been interested in the relationship between art and atmosphere and the interactions that go on between the artist, the viewers and the setting. His previous installations have often included food as a way of facilitating this ambiance of cultural exchange: early on, he began cooking for gallery-goers and in 1992 set up a mobile kitchen in an office space in Soho and began free meals to guests. This performance was later recreated at David Zwirner gallery in 2007. In the press release, Tiravanija explains the idea behind his work, stating that “Space and memory will fuse while the stomach demands a focus on the present moment”.
Tiravanija’s artwork, in changing how an “art space” functions, seeks to question the very role of the artist. His work is often categorized as an exploration of “Relational Aesthetics”, an idea coined in the 1990’s by French art critic French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud to analyze and categorize the expanding body of conceptual art. Bourriaud defined the style as “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.”
Soup No Soup