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Ping Pong, Dumplings, and DIY T-Shirts as Art

Talking to relational aesthetics master Rirkrit Tiravanija about the future for his new show at the Garage Museum.
June 12, 2015, 5:20pm
Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tomorrow is the Question, 2015. Image courtesy of The Garage Museum for Contemporary Art.

Rirkrit Tiravanija’s newest exhibition, Tomorrow is the Question, invites visitors to the Garage Contemporary Art Museum to a game of ping pong, a sampling of Russian dumplings, and the opportunity to make personalized t-shirts.

The Garage opens their doors to their new permanent home in Gorky Park in Moscow, and Tomorrow is the Question probes museum goers to think about the future. In classic Tiravanijan style, the exhibition challenges the distinction between life and art, public and private, all while perverting the etiquette of a traditional art viewing for a playful alternative.

Garage Museum in Gorky Park, overview. Image courtesy of OMA, via

Tiravanija is known for his 1992 _Untitled (Free) _piece, a seminal work in a movement now known as "relational aesthetics." For it, he served Thai green curry to gallery attendees at 303 Gallery. That work has since been recreated in various forms at Carnegie Museum of Art, the David Zwirner Gallery, MoMA, and in Thailand. Tiravanija continues to create opportunities that bring people together in unexpected ways under the realm of art.

In Tomorrow is the Question, Tiravanija brings unlikely individuals to share a meal, play ping pong, and make t-shirts and in turn, demystifies the traditional white cube gallery space. Its casual and almost-kitsch humor of creates ice-breakers as it allows strangers to rub shoulders and become a critical part of the performative and socially-engaged work. In the beautiful banality of these everyday activities, Tiravanija creates mini cultural meeting places inside the larger space of the museum.

Inspired by the Czechoslovakian artist Július Koller, Tiravanija channeled his artistic practices for this show, particularly in the title of the exhibition, Tomorrow is the Question. Koller preferred his representations tangible, like when he photographed several children in the form of a question mark in 1978. Tiravanija recreated this work in front of the Gorky Park gates and posters of it will be seen along the walls of the museum and throughout Moscow for the duration of the exhibition.

The Creators Project had a chance to ask Rirkrit a few questions about the exhibition, its title, and if he has any expectations for his audience:

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tomorrow is the Question, 2015. Image courtesy of The Garage Museum for Contemporary Art.

The Creators Project: Could you talk about the title of the exhibition, Tomorrow is the Question? Why is tomorrow the question?

Rirkrit Tiravanija: Because we need to ask ourselves every day, what it is that we are here for? Why do we exist, and what is the condition of existence, what is the condition we have to continue forward? We need to ask ourselves what is there ahead in the future. A question of questions.

Rirkrit Tiravanija playing ping pong at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Image courtesy of David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com

Why did you choose to have ping pong, t-shirt making, and eating dumplings as activities for your exhibition?

Each [activity] can give its own experiential relation, something the audience can interact with, use, and perhaps reach meaning. [They have a] relationship to the work of Július Koller with the ping pong club, but ping pong can also be another form of relation-making or another form of communication, as well as the dissemination of rhetoric's via the texts on t-shirts.

What predictions do you have, if any, on how people are going to interact with your piece over the duration of the exhibition?

I don't have any preconception of how things will turn out. All audiences are different. They all approach their experiences with their own construction, so perhaps I can, at best, anticipate and that would mean I anticipate that there will be people. There will be an audience and that is already a lot.

Why did you decide to include Július Koller as an inspiration for this show and align your work alongside his?

I had the chance to meet Július when I was involved with Utopia Station at the Venice Biennale back in 2003. I felt the need to then share what little I have come to know of his work. But I think there is the question of "tomorrow" in his work that I would like to push forward and ask for everyone to experience his work and to think of the future.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tomorrow is the Question, 2015. Image courtesy of The Garage Museum for Contemporary Art.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Tomorrow is the Question, 2015. Image courtesy of The Garage Museum for Contemporary Art.

_Tomorrow is the Question _is on view at the Garage Museum for Contemporary Art, through August 23rd.

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