Interviews with Maria Lind and Rikrit Tiravanija, 2004
Interview with Maria Lind
Felicia Herrschaft: How was the situation now here, after I think one week of preparing this workshop and this retrospective project on Rirkrit Tiravanija, how do you create or work with social situations?
Maria Lind: I think each social situation is different. In this particular case I approached Rikrit a year ago, and said I would be interested thinking about a retrospective with him but more in the form of a workshop or something that would be related in its format to his way of working. He was enthusiastic about the idea and said great. And together we discussed the issue and realized it could be good to do it with his students or some of his students from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Frankfurt and also to add some students from the academy in Munich, people who we at the Kunstverein know because they have been doing internships here or we have had some other kind of contact with them. We met them in May some of us here in Munich and we had them also invited additional people namely curators who were also planning retrospectives during the same period, people who had independently contacted Rikrit….
…And we thought it was a good idea to discuss future projects. So one student from each school came plus all of these curators. And then the idea came up that for the workshop here now in September in Munich the students would try and think about how one could do an ideal retrospective with Rirkrit’s work and then the curators would join towards the end of the workshop and that’s basically what has happened. I suggested in May that it could be useful with some kind of backdrop for the whole workshop in Munich for the week and that could be the work “ Angst essen Seele auf” which Rikrit made in 1994 which is a bar and a monitor showing Fassbender’s film “Angst essen Seele auf” from 1973 and a bar where you can also get the drinks, the two main characters, the old peeling lady who falls in love with a young Moroccan guest worker….
Felicia: Cola and beer…
Maria Lind: They drink when they meet, beer and coke… The first day we actually built this bar together. One group also went out buying ingredients for cooking because we realized that of course we have to eat. Cooking is part of Rikrit’s work but the decision to cook during the workshop is not motivated by his cooking but more by that of course: we have to eat something when we are here together and there’s not a huge budget and its also nice to do it in the Kunstverein together.
Felicia: because it’s cheaper?
Maria Lind: Ja, so the first day was quite practical and than for the second day we had invited Robert Fischer, who is a filmmaker and a film historian here in Munich to talk about Fassbender.
He has among other things he has made a documentary on Fassbender. So he came and talked and that was really interesting because we had also before looked at slides of Rikrit’s work and he was talking a lot to us about older work how he liked them and the context they related to and so it went on during the week with discussions and I think it crystallized towards the end of the week that it was not so interesting to the students to think literarily in an art historical way to think about Rikrit’s work and address the issue of how you can re-enact them and make them alive again so to speak. But rather to take on board the side of Rikrit’s practice, which is the openness, and the possibility of catching the ball Rikrit is actually throwing at you. So my feeling is that the students have very much thought about how they should deal with this ball. Some of them have kept it and didn’t throw it further on and some have started to throw it. So some of them have started to do their own things, which you could say is also in a way a retrospective of Rikrits work. Because his work is also so much about an attitude and an approach to people, a sensibility in relation to how you work. Which is something that the students have taken part of and maybe learned from and which they partly also somehow could and play themselves. So it moves away from his work in the sense that they do their own thing but that is also in on invitation in quotation marks of what his work is about.
Felicia: And has this to do how Rikrit Tiravanija is teaching or how he taught most of the students? How they work with his work…?
Maria Lind: yeah in a way, but it is hard to talk about teaching, because it is not conventional teaching.
Felicia: How would you describe this teaching…?
Maria Lind: It’s setting up a certain framework. And within that framework there is a lot of space for manoeuvring. Their might be some components or some points of reference within this framework, which he helps shaping but there is always a lot of space for everybody and it is up to you very much what you make out of this. So you are constantly in these situations, I think that is true for most of his work, thrown back at your self. You have to confront yourself through this kind of openness and sometimes this is hard to deal with.
And sometimes this is absolutely fascinating and exciting. And what is also interesting is that a couple of other people over the weekend have joined the workshop who are not working formally with him, neither as curators nor as students like Ivan Imerbery (?) who is from Bilbao, who has known Rikrit for 10 years who is and has a relationship to it but has a very different perspective. Or Jose Miguel Ayerza, the critic and curator who never met Rikrit and never literarily did anything with him but is somehow close to Philippe Parreno, a French artist, who is very close to Rirkrit and they have collaborated on a number of occasions. So it was very interesting to have Peyu here with his input, which is so to speak, indirect.
Interview with Rikrit Tiravanija
Rikrit Tiravanija: You know, how I became interested in art? You know it came…I come from a culture which we don’t really know about art, I mean it is something that we don’t have in a sense like a structure that…so of course I was saying like I actually didn’t know anything about art 'til I was like 18, I mean 19 or 20. I mean, I knew in a way…than I started to tell back the story. The story begins: coming to Canada with my father who was going to work there so I was going to go to university. But in Thailand I was interested in photography but as a journalist not as an artist. So I was going to go to school for journalism but particularly I wanted to be a photojournalist. So then I was somehow enrolled in a program, which was basically in the history department, and then I saw some slides, you know I was in an art history class and then I suddenly kind of became conscious of it you know. And really, but I would say that the two works that made me very conscious and very aware made why I wanted to make and how I wanted to make and do things were Mila Dulavitch (?), "White on White" and Marcel Duchamp, "Urinal". So they are kind of for me you know one is a kind of ideological spirituality and this is like the western work and the other is a kind of question of everything and everyday. But then of course now in a sense when I am in the present I am probably much more interested in art because I, when I was a child in the kindergarten my shoelace fell off and the person who came to help me was the art teacher. You know, and I think in a way there is something that impress you as a little child already. Even though I didn’t know anything about art you know like but it was already some kind of sensitivity or sensibility that I appreciated where no body where no one else cared. So that was I mean my kind of retrospective looking back really. I mean of course I always ask when I work with young artists or people I teach or you know what ever I always ask them what made you or when did you decide to become an artist. Or what you know. Because for me it was very late and in a way I was just stumbling into things but of course for me it a kind of somehow stumbling into the right things. First this photojournalism and then this art history and then into an art department which let me do what ever I wanted to do. You know I was not burdened by history, you know by history of art that is art you know I don’t know that is Da Vinci or Michaelangelo. You know I never even look at those things.
Felicia: how important is travelling?
Rikrit Tiravanija: I think travelling is very important, because that was the equation in the photo journalistic structure. I wanted to see the world and I wanted to do something which would take me there and to be a photo journalist was a possibility. I always take pictures, but I never show them generally. I also was saying now the other day, I never take pictures anymore. I don’t even carry a camera anymore…now I take them with a mobile phone you know like…. It’s not like… on the one hand, I just also feel like I need to see everything.
Felicia: because it’s uncomfortable…?
Rikrit Tiravanija: I mean of course when you are dealing with that kind of recording or this constant recording I feel like you missed out the experience of the moment, because you are busy recording. And everybody now is very busy recording. But somehow the moment is not experienced because there is a frame in front of everything. So I kind of also decided to stop to take pictures. But the funny other thing is that I never take photographs of my work. Like my shows I never take pictures of it not like intentionally never set it up or ask people to do it for me. In general it was something that somebody else did but they knew they had to do it. You know they knew they wanted it so they did it. You know I never call a photographer to take picture of the event or I never…so I think it’s related to a lot of what I do also.
Felicia: but if you do a big project like utopia station? It’s really documented.
Rikrit Tiravanija: yeah, but it is also not mine. So it’s not… In general everything is always so documented. But I would say of course that generally I don’t carry it around with me. So usually when I have to give a lecture I have to call somebody…you know…ask
Felicia:…for the slides…?
Rikrit Tiravanija: yeah!
Felicia: normally artists would sell the photographs in galleries and…
Rikrit Tiravanija: yeah…I mean I think that is one of the things that I don’t’ want to do. Maybe there is nothing left but I don’t want to sell an image of it. But that is not what it is. It is not an image. So it should not be so many photos around. And in a way I would rather that people remember it and speak about it but the pictures are in their head.
Felicia: how would you describe working together with your students?
Rikrit Tiravanija: Well you know I am always …I am a bit difficult for them because I never give them a structure. I mean the structure is that they are already responsible for themselves. So I don’t work with people like I am the teacher and they are the student. I work with them like we are working together. So on the one hand it could be very free. Also people are very confused, because they don’t know what the expectations should be. And of course because anyway I am the leader, you know I am the older, they always think I would expect something. But of course I wouldn’t expect anything. I mean my expectation is not kind of finished. They are always occurring or happening. I am watching. I am listening, you know and I am very much in a way also studying what’s going on or what people are thinking about or what people are talking about or what people feel. But in a way…On the other hand there is also nothing. So it can be very hard sometimes.
Felicia: One said he was acknowledged by you because you bought a piece of work from him. And he felt this was a sign for him to go the right way.
Rikrit Tiravanija: yeah no I always support them, when they do things, but I want them to think for themselves. I want them to be able to be in the community and find themselves in it. Not to be taught what to do or not to be told how to behave, but that they should kind of find themselves in the community. But also as individuals which is something that you kind of have to do simultaneously you know but yeah…and then at the same, but in that situation you learn …also you learn…
Liam Gillick was also part of the workshop in Munich and is reflecting on that situation in the interview: