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 contemporary material culture.
For this exhibition, Rirkrit 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 food and kitchen culture that have circulated across regions and time. The result is a group of works incorporating seeds, tuna, eggs, sugar, chili paste, bread, a 400-year-old recipe for a sweet dessert, vases, 10,000 years of gourd history, a 13th-century image of a mermaid, and other products.
As an exhibition, The Way Things Go is a meandering of stories, narratives, actions both solitary and collective, and the path one wanders in search of origin and destiny. These avenues are both personal (private) and public, as information and knowledge are seemingly available and free. Ingredients shift from the raw to the cooked, from the inconsequential to the rarefied, from banality to exoticism, from a distance to the near and back again, from transitory to transformation, recipes invented, stories told and retold, words pass from one tongue to another, meanings change, origins are dropped and otherness is realized.
In turn, these focused stories lead 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.
The 13 participating artists and artist groups – contributing mixed-media installations, film, video, and archive-oriented art – join Tiravanija’s global journey through a cultural gathering that privileges mobility and exchange as a form of research and a way to learn about the vagrancies of meanings attached to things. The exhibition’s staging creates a web of relationships and connections across the related fields of postcolonial studies, cultural migration, and social geography.
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 to its origins in Portugal. Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan’s installation Monument of Sugar (2007), which is comprised of a 16-millimeter film essay and 304 blocks of sugar, circumvents international trade regulations by converting a valuable commodity (sugar) into a work of art, exposing 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.
Thasnai Sethaseree’s make it like home . . . anywhere? (2000–14) is a meditation on personal effects and positive memories of home that Thai immigrants in Chicago shared with the artist. 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. Also included is the Fischli and Weiss video The Way Things Go (1987), featuring a series of mechanical chain reactions that provides the underlying principle of the exhibition. For Tiravanija, 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.
Participating artists are: Maria Thereza Alves, Michael Arcega, Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Camille Henrot, Luc Moullet, Museum of Gourd, the National Bitter Melon Council, Pratchaya Phinthong, Arin Rungjang, Thasnai Sethaseree, Shimabuku, and SUPERFLEX in collaboration with the Propeller Group.