It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed, but surprisingly, the iconic ‘Untitled 1990 (pad thai),’ which introduced many to Rirkrit Tiravanija is now 34 years old. From then until now, it’s no longer uncommon to walk into a gallery and encounter interactive art that actively encourages viewer interaction and engagement.

It’s also no longer surprising if a gallery hosts activities similar to an artist cooking Pad Thai and serving it to viewers. Certainly, back in the 1990s, these kinds of things were considered novel, and it earned Rirkrit the status of an avant-garde artist who broke the existing artistic conventions as well as his ‘the artist who cooks Pad Thai’ trademark that many referred to him by at the time, and perhaps even now.

In October of the preceding year, MoMA PS1 unveiled ‘Rirkrit Tiravanija: A LOT OF PEOPLE,’ marking the inaugural retrospective exhibition of Rirkrit Tiravanija in the United States. The title, ‘A LOT OF PEOPLE,’ is extracted from a phrase recurrently appearing in the artist’s artwork labels.

For example, in ‘untitled 1990 (pad thai),’ the label detailing the materials and techniques employed states, “Ingredients for Pad Thai, utensils, electric woks, and a lot of people.” Similarly, in ‘untitled 1993 (cafe deutschland),’ the description reads, “Four chairs, one table, metal shelves, stacked books, mix media, Turkish coffee, and a lot of people.”

The phrase ‘a lot of people’ serves as the fitting exhibition title, effectively expressing how ‘people’ have always been the essence of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s art, underscoring the collective experience of viewers within his works.

In addition to the two aforementioned artworks and ‘untitled 1996 (rehearsal studio no.6, open version),’ where viewers were invited to play music and record sounds, which, too, features ‘a lot of people’ as a key element, the exhibition had put together a comprehensive collection of over 100 pieces encapsulating Rirkrit’s four-decade long artistic career. Among these, a number of lesser-known works share the ‘a lot of people’ narrative, telling the tales of individuals through the lens of the ‘people power’ perspective.

We are talking about artworks such as the ‘Demonstration Series’ (2001–present) and ‘untitled 2015 (bangkok boogie woogie, No. 2).’ The first piece is a project that originated from the ‘Demonstration Drawings,’ where Rirkrit Tiravanija commissioned artists in Thailand, mainly his apprentices, to redraw photographs of various protests from the International Herald Tribune newspaper. The aim for the artists was to gather daily to draw images from the newspaper, to read the ever-changing news, and to immerse themselves in the news images on the pages of the fading publication.

‘untitled 2015 (bangkok boogie woogie, No. 2)’ showcases an installation featuring several bronze tires sculptures and a video portraying an image of a tire engulfed in flames. It serves as a remembrance of the demonstrations that took place in Bangkok in 2010, which culminated in protestors being forcefully and violently dispersed.

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