Resident Alien

At the moment, the young artist-chronologist Erik Parker is working on a wild diagram of the art world called Interpretation of the Situation. Filling an entire living room wall, it features the names of art-world players and shakers, from Laura Owens, the Chapmans, and Art Club 2000 to Robert Storr, Dave Hickey, and Charles Saatchi. (I made it as a "trench critic.")

Untitled may be finishing off one phase of Tiravanija's work, while at the Venice Biennale he appears to be opening another. Here, he's contributed a brilliant, subtle, all-but-invisible piece. Instead of filling in and virtually replacing his "host," he adds a light but discordant note to the din of a 100-piece orchestra. But what a note! It keeps resonating in the mind until it forms a one-man power chord.

This note consists of planting a sapling teak tree on a site in the center of the Giardini directly in front of the American pavilion and just around the corner from the three "great powers" of England, Germany, and France. Tiravanija christened this unassuming structure the First Royal Thai Pavilion.

Thrilling and seedy: a kitchen corner in Untitled, 1999 (tomorrow can shut up and Go away)
photo: Robin Holland
Thrilling and seedy: a kitchen corner in Untitled, 1999 (tomorrow can shut up and Go away)


Rirkrit Tiravanija
Gavin Brown's enterprise
436 West 15th Street
Through August 31

Until now, Thailand, a poor country, had no exhibition facility of its own. After Korea built its pavilion in the '60s, Biennale authorities ruled no more pavilions would be built in the main section of the Giardini. In other words, Asia, South America, and Africa would be moved to a back lot. Tiravanija has changed that. But there's more.

Tiravanija is the official commissioner of this pavilion, and will be in perpetuity: he will curate all subsequent exhibitions for the site. It's a diabolical diplomatic act— all the more pointed because the teak tree is indigenous to Thailand, but there are far fewer there due to decades of overlogging. If the tree can survive in the Italian climate, it will grow to be huge. If not, Tiravanija has secured permission to replant his tree for every Biennale. It looks like Tiravanija is here to stay.

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