Today marks the opening of the Ontario College of Art and Design’s Professional Gallery and sparks the art college’s new residency program with international art star and OCAD alumnus, Rirkrit Tiravanija. The son of Thai diplomats, now based equally in New York, Berlin, and Bangkok, Tiravanija epitomizes the “Nomadic Resident” the series aims to represent.
Tiravanija’s unique and experimental practice has most famously involved cooking and serving Pad Thai in the gallery, but has also included filming documentaries, producing radio plays, and building power-generating systems. Above all, his work centres on a social dynamic—he claims it is “not about performing,” but rather, “about doing things together.” For this reason, Tiravanija has become a bit of a poster boy for Relational Aesthetics, a theory devised by Nicolas Bourriaud that examines “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.”
In conversation yesterday evening with Charles Reeve, curator of OCAD Professional Gallery, the artist shrugged off the common notion that his work functions as an illustration of Bourriaud’s thesis, but admitted that his ideas have arisen out of dissatisfaction with the traditional detachment of gallery exhibitions. Contrasting his food serving performances to the museological display of revered and untouchable artefacts, Tiravanija said his imagination was sparked when he saw an old pot in a gallery vitrine and thought, “let’s retrieve it and cook curry in it!”
As of last night, the entrance to the gallery space at OCAD had been bricked sealed, an act Reeve cheekily pointed out departs from Tiravanija’s characteristically interactive artwork. On this the artist was cagey, suggesting that the installation at OCAD has a “time aspect” that might take a while to be revealed. Furthermore, beyond critiquing the gallery and museum, said Tiravanija, “I need to transgress myself as an institutional structure.”
For further developments, attend this evening’s opening from 5 to 8 p.m. (It seems some progress has been made, as this morning students and staff arrived to find the words “NE TRAVAILLEZ JAMAIS” [“Never work!”] scrawled across the bricks.)
Photo courtesy of Sarah Mulholland.