What: Art 42 Basel
Who: Rirkrit Tiravanija
Where: 100 Tonson Gallery booth
When: June 16, 2011
Art Basel has this thing called Art Feature, which is a section at the fair that spotlights special art projects in stands alongside all the other gallery booths. There are 20 of them on both floors in Hall 2 and represent a range of artistic approaches.
One of them is Rirkrit Tiravanija‘s project. Those of you who are familiar with the artist would know that he often works in relational aesthetics, cooking food for his audience, inviting engagement to take place between people. For the project at Art Basel he has made us a big pot of curry served with rice in paper bowls. It was delicious.
However, cooking food is not the only participatory part of his work this time around. On the walls around the stand are charcoal drawings of various scenes from the political uprisings in the Middle East. The audience is invited to add their bit to the wall drawing, either by drawing from found images or adding their own. I picked up a conte stick and drew an Egyptian man in protest.
Whilst making my drawing from a small photograph, something quite powerful happened which I had not expected. Drawing the man’s face, the contours, his eyes, nose, mouth, then his hands, his clothes, his protest sign, and a symbol of freedom of speech, the microphone, created a connection far greater than anything I had seen or read in the news about the events and issues concerning the Middle East. When you draw someone, you notice every detail about them because you have to. And once you’re done you almost feel like you’ve gotten to know them a bit better, and in quite an intimate way. You don’t just draw their face, you also draw a part of their soul. Outside of this I wouldn’t have ever thought of drawing images from these events.
Here are more photos of the wall drawings that others have done:
After spending about 20 mins finishing my drawing, it was time to eat curry!
The whole experience, contributing to this great wall drawing and feeling connected not just with the many strangers who I ate communal curry with but also the man I drew, was quite incredible. There are no boundaries with art, and I am so glad that Art Basel has selected Rirkrit to do such a project here at an event that is so much about commerciality. You can’t hang this on a wall.
Thanks for a great lunch, Rirkrit and the wonderful team at 100 Tonson!
(Alison, I ate some curry for you too – I know how much you like Rirkrit! Wish you were here!)