Rirkrit Tiravanija

MoMA PS1 presents the first US survey and largest exhibition to date dedicated to artist Rirkrit Tiravanija (Thai, b. 1961). The exhibition traces four decades of Tiravanija’s career and features over 100 works, from early experimentations with installation and film, to drawings, works on paper, ephemera, sculpture, and newly produced “plays” of key participatory works.

Exhibition A LOT OF PEOPLE
Artists Rirkrit Tiravanija
Date 12.10.2023 - 04.03.2024
Curator Ruba Katrib, Yasmil Raymond, Jody Graf, Kari Rittenbach
Venue MoMA PS1, New York
All images Courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo: Marissa Alper

Critical to the evolution of recent art in New York City and worldwide, Tiravanija’s interdisciplinary work trades in myriad forms of cultural translation and mistranslation: using multiple languages, appropriating imagery, restaging his own work, and constructing architectural replicas. Often citing art history, cinema, and vernacular Thai culture while folding in aspects of his own biography, Tiravanija puts forth open-ended proposals to generate “another notion of culture”—one less reliant on Western understandings of aesthetics and authenticity. Surveying his practice as a sculptor, filmmaker, traveler, and mentor, A LOT OF PEOPLE provides an overview of the striking complexity of Tiravanija’s pluralistic and itinerant efforts to “bring people in” to encounter each other and “make less things, but more useful relationships.”

Titled A LOT OF PEOPLE, a frequent material line in many of Tiravanija’s interactive pieces, the exhibition features a number of works that blur the distinction between artwork and audience. From playing ping-pong in untitled 2021 (mañana es la cuestión) to recording music in untitled 1996 (rehearsal studio no. 6, open version) and drinking Turkish coffee in untitled 1993 (café deutschland), audiences become active participants in many of Tiravanija’s works, which are only realized through their involvement.

Unfolding across the second floor galleries, lobby, and Courtyard, the exhibition gathers rarely seen early works from the late 1980s and 1990s—including many original sculptures, installations, and editions, some of which have been subsequently reimagined, cast, and memorialized over the years in new materials from plaster to bronze. Tiravanija’s concern with the politics of the personal extends into works that tackle global politics as well as the quotidian news cycle. Examples from his Demonstration Series (2001–present)—drawings rendering photographs found in the International Herald Tribune—are presented alongside his evolving series of text pieces on newsprint, and appropriations of other artists, such as Philip Guston. To make many of these works, Tiravanija has set up a studio near his home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, creating an economy of art production that is explicitly localized and collaborative.

Central to the exhibition is a newly conceived presentation of five historical interactive works performed on a plywood stage—at the artist’s direction—as a series of plays. Each play will be presented on Fridays and Saturdays for approximately one month, enacted by Tiravanija’s current and former students from Columbia University, where he has taught for over two decades. These plays unfold in chronological order, beginning with untitled 1990 (pad thai) (1990), a work originally presented at New York’s Paula Allen gallery in which pad thai is cooked, and closing with untitled 2011 (t-shirt, no t-shirt) (2011), an atelier where visitors can silkscreen clothing. These site-specific stagings acknowledge the distinct times and contexts in which these works originally took place, creating an experience where audiences can observe, as well as take part in, the happenings with critical distance. In this manner, Tiravanija continues to reactivate and translate his own works into new pieces that can adapt into the future.

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