New York

Rirkrit Tiravanija

Gavin Brown's enterprise | 620 Greenwich Street

Though I wasn’t there, at the opening of this show all the “art” was removed, and, in its place, for the moment, people milled about chatting, dazzling, listening to live music, behind a small white divider onto which Andy Warhol’s Sleep, 1963, was projected. All of this was meant to pose the question, Which is more worthy of the label “art,” the excellent tight white space purring with Sleep and people and music or the quiet before and later with Rirkrit Tiravanija’s objects next to Warhol’s works?

Tiravanija’s projects propose that the when and where of art may be as interesting, as integral, as the what. Something in the interstice (fleeting, moveable, opened, and closed), a space filled with waiting, and whatever remains (the smell of someone’s Héritage, a scent of beer, the smoke of thought or some other lovely transaction) are the stuff of Tiravanija’s esthetic. I am tempted, trying to describe it, to say something parenthetical. Each of Tiravanija’s sculptures was juxtaposed with a Warhol: bottles from the opening of Untitled [Blind], 1991, (four stacked cases of empty Rolling Rocks) green beneath a sharp little Mao; Untitled (Pud Thai), 1990, (a “cured” West Bend wok sitting on top of its box) to the left of a Brillo Box; and Untitled (Sleep/Winter), 1993, (a small mat beneath a foam mattress covered with bright orange fabric and a cotton-filled comforter, Double Happiness brand, with red and blue stitching) made a bed from which to watch Flesh (1968) or read from a stack of books (The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Holy Terror, the Diaries, Edie, Popism, or Andy Warhol Portraits). What happened happened at the intersection of art and life. Something went on between—these objects marked between the way a signature marks you.

The postcard announcing this show pictured Andy at a stove wearing a big chef’s cap and a big apron with huge beaters over his long-sleeved shirt, his dark tie. Warhol provided artists with recipes for what exactly—art, life, a way to exist in the world, a way to look and be looked at? In the “art” chapter of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, there is a lot about food, the quotation used as the “art” epigraph is a Warhol recipe: “You take some chocolate . . . and you take two pieces of bread . . . and you put the candy in the middle and you make a sandwich of it. And that would be cake.” Asked, in an interview with Gavin Brown, who had the biggest influence on him, Tiravanija responded: “My grandmother. I grew up in her kitchen. We watched a lot of TV together. She owned a big restaurant. I don’t remember what it was called; I think it was my uncle’s name. It was in the garden of my grandfather’s house, and everybody in Bangkok came to eat there. It was one of the first garden restaurants in Bangkok. She also taught cooking on Thai TV.” Do Tiravanija’s works—installations, parties, remnants of life’s activity-have a similar relation to art that a recipe does to a meal? I do not mean this as a put down. To try to understand Tiravanija’s work is to propose that art isn’t where it is, that art is always somewhere else—in storage, in your head, in your heart, in the elusive space between beholder and beheld. In the same interview with Brown, Tiravanija said that he is “committed to other things, elsewhere.” Tiravanija’s pieces recalled previous exhibits, previous openings, and, like Warhol, something already there.

Bruce Hainley