The Way Things Go - Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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Media Contact: Maureen Dixon
415.321.1307; [email protected]
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Presents
A Special Curatorial Project with Rirkrit Tiravanija:
The Way Things Go
February 13 – June 21, 2015
Opening Night Party: Friday, February 13, 2015, 8-10 p.m
Arin Rungjang, Golden Teardrop (installation view), 2013. Courtesy of the artist and the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture. Gallery Admission: $10 / Senior, Teacher, Student: $8 /
YBCA Member and YBCA:You FREE
YBCA, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94103
SAN FRANCISCO – (December 23, 2014) A Special Curatorial Project with Rirkrit Tiravanija:
The Way Things Go uncovers narratives, reveals personal stories, and shares vignettes that
lead to a larger understanding of the migration of people in the production of material culture.
Curated by contemporary artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, the exhibition investigates the origins and
subsequent journeys of “things,” in particular food, and its function as a lubricant for social
exchange. Tiravanija invited artists from Asia and Europe, as well as from the San Francisco
Bay Area, to contribute works related to the circulation and anthropology of seeds, plants, food,
recipes and related materials of kitchen culture that have circulated across regions and time.
Featuring 12 artist projects and a wide range of work, from mixed-media installations to film,
video, archive-oriented art, The Way Things Go explores how personal effects, gourds, seeds, a
recipe and sugar all yield stories that go beyond each artist’s personal intention, and creates a
larger story of interwoven meanings embedded in cultural geography and spatial history.
In Tiravanija’s artworks, “things” often function as props for visitors to create something of their
own, creating cultural products, which in turn, foster social production, and demonstrate how
origins, journeys and the stories that surround them are catalysts for bringing people into a more
intimate understanding of themselves and the interdependence of cultures. In the exhibition,
featured artists share personal and focused stories that open up to larger scenes of human
interaction and engagement by redrawing boundaries of trade and labor, colonization, political
affiliation and war—all of which have a profound impact on vernacular, local and indigenous
experiences. Participating artists are: Maria Thereza Alves, Lonnie van Brummelen and
Siebren de Haan, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Camille Henrot, Luc Moullett, Museum of
Gourd, the National Bitter Melon Council, Pratchaya Phinthong, Arin Rungjang, Thasnai
Sethaseree, Shimabuku, and SUPERFLEX with the Propeller Group.
Thasnai Sethaseree’s make it like home . . . anywhere? (2002–14) is a meditation on personal
effects and positive memories of home that Thai immigrants in Chicago shared with the artist.
Sethaseree translated these materials into detailed drawings, paintings, and sculptures that
capture the spirit of the feeling between owner and object. Chihiro Minato’s Museum of Gourd
(2012–ongoing), a collaboration with artists, hobbyists, and an archivist, is an exegesis on a
natural product that has a long lineage of varied uses. Maria Thereza Alves has spent years
considering how seeds migrate from one region to another and the consequences of their
journeys and resettlements. For Wake in Guangzhou: The History of the Earth (2008), she
transported dirt from the Liwan district in Guangzhou to the contemporary art museum there,
exposing previously buried and dormant seeds, and allowing them to germinate in order to
create a monument garden—presented in this exhibition as a journey in a wall installation.
Arin Rungjang’s video and sculpture Golden Teardrop (2013) reassembles the fragmented
layers of the history of Thong Yod, a common Thai dessert. Engaging the disjunctive layers of
private and public dialogues, he traces the dessert through colonialism, trade routes, and
personal journeys to its origins in Portugal. A contemporary oral history by a Japanese woman
living in Thailand is overlaid onto this history to complete its complex portrait. Lonnie van
Brummelen and Siebren de Haan’s installation Monument of Sugar (2007), which is comprised
of a 16-mm film essay and 304 blocks of sugar, involved the importation of 1,000 euro worth of
sugar as minimalist sculptural blocks. Circumventing international trade regulations by
converting a valuable commodity (sugar) into a work of art, their project exposes the complex
sugar trade between the European Union and other countries while also exploring the larger
intersection of social and political issues with artistic and aesthetic practices.
Tiravanija has selected works that demonstrate the complexity of the global circulation of people
and goods. Underlying Tiravanija’s attitude toward mobility, chance, and serendipity is his
2 shared sensibility with a video by Peter Fischli and David Weiss included in the exhibition, The
Way Things Go (1987), which he has appropriated as the title of the show.
Various public programs (listed below)—including lectures at UC Berkeley, the San Francisco
Art Institute, and Headlands Center for the Arts, where Tiravanija is a 2015 Artist in
Residence—will accompany the exhibition. The Way Things Go is organized in collaboration
with Betti-Sue Hertz, Director of Visual Arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
About the Artist
Since the 1990s, the renowned Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija (born in 1961 in Buenos Aires,
Argentina, and currently living and working in New York, Berlin, and Chiang Mai, Thailand) has
aligned his artistic production with an ethic of social engagement, often inviting viewers to
inhabit and activate the work. In one of his best-known series, begun with pad thai (1990) at
Paula Allen Gallery in New York, Tiravanija opted not to present art objects, but to prepare,
cook, and serve home-style Thai curry to exhibition visitors. For his second solo exhibition in
New York, held at 303 Gallery in 1992, he filled the white rooms with stacks of cultural castoffs,
transforming the space into what seemed like a storage facility and demoting the primacy of the
revered art object. The artist’s installations often take the form of stages or rooms for sharing
meals, cooking, reading, or playing music; architecture or structures for living and socializing are
recurring elements.
Tiravanija is one of the most important proponents of an artistic practice called relational
aesthetics, a term first defined by the curator and theorist Nicolas Bourriaud in the 1990s as “a
set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole
of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent or private space.” The
work centers on inter-human relations, which it represents, produces, or prompts. The term was
first used in a text Bourriaud wrote for the exhibition Traffic, at CAPC musee d’art contemporain
de Bordeaux, which featured work by Tiravanija, and was codified in the book Relational
Aesthetics, first published in 1998.
Tiravanija’s practice is very wide ranging and extends into many artistic forms. It may be
productive to understand his work as a set of proposals that cross into environmentalism,
biography, and politics as well as food, menus, and kitchens. While in his earliest works it
appears that he approached social and political issues through a desire to establish localized
communities, more recently, especially with his projects anchored in Thailand, he has become
more directly responsive to shifts and changes on the political scene. Throughout his career,
Tiravanija has framed his practice in the terms of local social geographies, while at the same
time not disregarding the importance of personal experience.
Tiravanija’s previous curatorial projects include Utopia Station at the 2003 Venice Biennale, cocurated with the art historian Molly Nesbit and the curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist. This
exhibition also included seminars, meetings, performances, books, and more than 160 poster
designs. He co-curated with Gridthiya Gaweewong Saigon Open City, a project focusing on
liberation, unification, and (re)construction, in 2006–7. Tiravanija’s long-term project, The Land,
founded with Kamin Lertchaiprasert in 1998, is a mixture of art, design, advocacy, and solidarity
with local rice farmers in a village near the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Tiravanija has won
several prestigious awards, including the Hugo Boss Prize in 2005, the Absolut Art Award in
2010, the Benesse Prize by the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum in Japan, and the
Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lucelia Artist Award.
Opening Night Party
3 Fri, Feb 13, 8-10 PM
Grand Lobby, Downstairs Galleries
$12 in Advance / $15 at the Door /FREE for YBCA Members and YBCA:You
Be among the first to see the exhibition and celebrate the opening of A Special Curatorial
Project with Rirkrit Tiravanija. Enjoy cocktails and lively entertainment, and meet and mingle
with artists and YBCA staff.
Public Programs
Fear Eats the Soul
Co-sponsored by SFAI and YBCA
Friday, February 20, 2015; 7 p.m.
San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco/FREE
Rirkrit Tiravanija will give a lecture providing an overall view of his practice. Tiravanija is one of
the most important figures of Relational Aesthetics, a practice in which the audience is regarded
as a community, and the artwork is experienced as a shared encounter.
Local Source
Co-sponsored by Headlands Center for the Arts and YBCA
Sunday, February 22, 2015; 6:30 p.m.
Headlands Center for the Arts, 944 Simmonds Rd, Sausalito, CA/$75, Headlands
Members: $50
Internationally acclaimed artist and 2015 Headlands Artist in Residence Rirkrit Tiravanija, known
for his groundbreaking contributions in the realm of social practice, will orchestrate a shared
meal with a mixed menu based on what is fresh and locally available. As we eat together,
Tiravanija will talk about various processes and projects that blur the line between artist and
viewer, and ask how an artwork might leave a lasting impression when its medium is something
as finite as food. Setting the table in Headlands’ historic Mess Hall—renovated by artist Ann
Hamilton—this gathering invites visitors to engage with art in an exceptionally sociable way.
The Way Things Go
Monday, February 23, 7:30-9 p.m.
Center for New Media, UC Berkeley Campus, Berkeley, CA/FREE
This lecture, entitled The Way Things Go, is being developed in partnership with the UC
Berkeley Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley Center for New Media and UC Berkeley Art
Practice Lecture Series. Rirkrit Tiravanija will speak about the principles and ideas that
underscore A Special Curatorial Project with Rirkrit Tiravanija: The Way Things Go.
About Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA), located in San Francisco's Yerba Buena cultural
district, is one of the nation's leading multidisciplinary contemporary arts centers. With a belief
that contemporary art is at the heart of community life, YBCA brings audiences and artists of all
backgrounds together to express and experience creativity. The organization is known for
nurturing emerging artists at the forefront of their fields and presenting works that blend art
forms and explore the events and ideas of our time. As part of its commitment to the San
Francisco Bay Area, YBCA supports the local arts community and reflects the region's diversity
of people and thought through its arts and public programming.
4 YBCA presents programming year-round in the Forum, Screening Room, Galleries and the
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater. For tickets and information, call 415.978.ARTS (2787).
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.
YBCA Exhibitions 14-15 is made possible in part by: Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan, Meridee
Moore and Kevin King, the Creative Ventures Council, and Members of Yerba Buena Center for
the Arts.
Free First Tuesdays are underwritten by Directors Forum Members.

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