Magazine article Artforum International

Rirkrit Tiravanija; GALERIE CHANTAL CROUSEL

Magazine article Artforum International

Rirkrit Tiravanija; GALERIE CHANTAL CROUSEL

Article excerpt

The inspiration for this exhibition was a coal barge called the Louise-Catherine, which the Salvation Army in Paris commissioned Le Corbusier to transform into a floating shelter in 1929. Rirkrit Tiravanija reconstructed the 260-foot vessel in Thailand at about half scale, so that it would occupy the gallery from floor to ceiling (part of its length could not be accommodated and had to be left behind). Visitors climbed onto the barge by way of a small wooden staircase near the bow. Inside were rows of wooden cots with white pillows and folded orange linens. Between the cots stood dressmakers' dummies, each sporting multiple T-shirts with political slogans: FREE CHINA FROM TIBET; ON NE PEUT PAS SIMULER LA LIBERTE; MY PRESIDENT IS BLACK: THE DREAM CAME TRUE; FREE-THINKER; and SO on. On the hull's interior just behind the cots hung a row of "Untitled (T-Shirt Demonstration Drawings)" (all 2010), which Tiravanija commissioned from young Thai students: These are reproductions in graphite of press images in which people wearing T-shirts with political slogans are seen at demonstrations. From the deck of the barge, one could discover and climb into another room, whose back wall was covered with more of these drawings: many framed and covered by a slightly lurid orange glass, like those on the boat, but many more appearing in the form of blue wallpaper against which the framed orange versions hung.

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The exhibition lends itself to a political interpretation. In it the image of a certain political subject was put forth, most obviously by way of the slogans on the T-shirts. Moreover, the overlay of political and artistic participation and engagement (young Thai artists commissioned to make the drawings, the modeling of the T-shirts at the opening, etc.) implied that politics is automatic and inescapable, as in the old feminist phrase "the personal is political. …

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