Rirkrit Tiravanija spent the past two years traveling around Oaxaca to learn from master potters across the region. The artist worked with Cooperativa 1050°—a cooperative of potters from Oaxaca, Puebla, and Chiapas, led by Kythzia Barrera—to make vases, cups, and other vessels using techniques preserved for centuries within local families.
The collaboration culminated in Tiravanija’s most recent exhibition at kurimanzutto, Mexico City, titled Mezcal vs. Pulque. The pottery made throughout his travels were on view in the exhibition. They were displayed within and around a 1:3 wooden reproduction of an abandoned stone structure the artist encountered during his visit to Rio Blanco Tonaltepec. On the occasion of Mezcal vs. Pulque, kurimanzutto took the opportunity to look back at Tiravanija’s collaborations with the gallery and the communities that inspire his practice. We are pleased to share these past projects for the launch of From the Archive.
economía del mercado, 1999
The work of the Argentina born Thai artist living between New York, Berlin, and Chiang Mai, reflects his nomadic existence as he blends and negotiates different cultural contexts. He describes the participatory events that define his three-decade long career as “relational”: focused on social interactions that blur the boundaries between art and life, and question the value placed on objects within the white cube. These were the same principles that grounded the early history of kurimanzutto, whose program centered on nomadic exhibitions in non-traditional spaces.
On Saturday, August 21, 1999, kurimanzutto presented its inaugural exhibition Economía de mercado (Market Economy) as a one-day, pop-up sale of contemporary art in Mercado Medellín in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. Tiravanija, along with Abraham Cruzvillegas, Minerva Cuevas, Sofía Táboas, Damián Ortega, Gabriel Kuri, Gabriel Orozco and others, sold pieces priced between 25 and 500 pesos and that were made from materials found at the market. Tiravanija cooked and distributed pad thai. The exchange and consumption of the dish among market-goers—those who anticipated the exchange of food rather than contemporary art—broke with art world conventions and turned passive observers into active participants. An imperative to the realization of the artwork.
palm pavillion, 2008
palm pavilion, 2008
A desire to explore the architecture that supports lived experiences also drives Tiravanija’s practice. In the fall of 2008, the artist had his first solo show in Mexico at a warehouse in the Condesa neighborhood that kurimanzutto occupied for a couple of years. Palm Pavilion, originally created for the 27th Sao Paulo Bienal, replicates the French architect Jean Prouvé’s (1901–1984) Tropical House, a small portable steal structure designed in 1949 for the Europeans living in the African colonies.
untitled, 2012 (all those years at no. 17e london terrace), 2012
Four years later, the artist reconstructed another home for the exhibition Untitled, 2012 (All those years at No. 17E London Terrace) at kurimanzutto’s current gallery space in the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood. Collaborating with musician and fellow artist Arto Lindsay, Tiravanija created a 1:1 reproduction of Lindsay’s old apartment in the gallery. Here, as in Palm Pavilion, audiences activated the piece and participated in the preservation of Lindsay’s environment as a living archive. In addition to hosting a series of readings, cooking classes, and musical performances, Lindsay himself occupied the space for a few days to record his latest album.
u.f.o. - naut jk (július koller), 2012
Directly following his collaboration with Lindsay, Tiravanija returned to kurimanzutto to exhibit a body of work based on the Slovakian conceptual artist Július Koller (1939–2007). Koller, akin to Tiravanija, used lived experiences and everyday objects to challenge the cultural context of communist Czechoslovakia. Tiravanija chose to reactivate some of Koller’s most significant works, including Universal Futorological Question Mark (U.F.O.), (1978), a happening where Koller and a group of children gathered on a Bratsilava hill and used their bodies to form a question mark. Tiravanija recreated the question mark with a group of people at the Zócalo in downtown Mexico City, which was documented and later on view in the show at kurimanzutto.
untitled 2014 (todos juntos), 2014
Tiravanija continued to make ephemeral works through grand gestures of hospitality in the three-day exhibition Untitled 2014 (todos juntos). He welcomed visitors to play Ping-Pong, eat a barbeque dinner cooked by the artist on charcoal grills produced by local blacksmiths, and recline with a dozen others on a 47-foot hammock that hung across the gallery filled with palm trees. Similar to Mezcal vs. Pulque and the formation of the question mark at the Zócalo, the artist collaborates with a specific community within Mexico. He commissioned inmates of a correctional center near Valladolid, Yucatán, to weave the hammock, which is the only craft the inmates are allowed to sell. The slogan “todos juntos” (all together) is woven at the hammock’s center in reference to the inmates’ collective work that made the communal rocking possible.
mezcal vs. pulque, 2022
The artist understands the materials used in communal gatherings across cultures as forms of knowledge that he hopes to disseminate to audiences through his artistic practice. At the opening of Mezcal vs. Pulque, in characteristic fashion, the artist stood inside the wooden house and used the pottery to serve mezcal and pulque—native beverages of the Oaxaca region—to visitors. The instigation of human interactions within architectural structures, whether a stall in a market or a replica of another’s home, encourages audiences to pause, sip, and enjoy the moment.