The first drawing Tiravanija exhibited was a portrait of himself as a child, posing with his mother and sister for a photographer in his native city of Buenos Aires. A few years later his father let a street artist in Hanoi draw a copy of the picture, which Tiravanija received as a present. The reproduction was shown in connection with a group exhibition that focused on drawings of sculptors.
Tiravanija, who studied art in Canada and the USA, is not a sculptor in a conventional sense, however. His art is rather about creating space for interpersonal encounters in public galleries and museums, reflecting everyday situations. An example is the work Freedom Can Not Be Simulated (2012), where he teams up with members of the audience to create sausages, though notably with eighteen shredded copies of Thailand’s constitution mixed into the meat. His works thereby exemplify “relational aesthetics”, that is, art projects that are socially and ethically motivated. To the extent that he creates objects, they are anonymized and reduplicated many times over.
The title is illustrated not only by the imagery’s allusions to expressions of opinion, protest matches, and other processions, but also by the practical use of the drawing medium as a tool for illustration and description. It was the conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s that introduced the idea that the medium expresses the idea of a piece. Similar to such art projects, Tiravanija’s art also includes elements that serve as institutional criticism.
Text: Nina Sundbäck-Arnäs Kaase
From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0