Rirkrit Tiravanija was born in Argentina, grew up in Thailand, and studied in Canada and the United States. The accumulation of those experiences and chance encounters with people from different cultural backgrounds inspired him to stage social events in gallery spaces and museums. In these events, which unfold between art and life, he invites members of the public to spend time together while they share meals, drinks, or games that are often derived from local customs. Tiravanija’s art—which is realized by its audience and seeks to bring out each individual’s social potential—is based on his belief that such encounters may prompt personal relationships that can lead to action.
Tiravanija’s installation Untitled 2010 (14086) was first presented at a gallery in Beijing in 2010. There, the artist installed a functioning brick-firing machine in the exhibition space. For its reiteration at the Biennale di Venezia, the bricks will be set to dry naturally outdoors before workers stamp into them the Chinese characters “别干了” and serial numbers from 1 to 14,086. The dried bricks will then be made available to the public. The Chinese characters— which spell out the phrase “Ne Travaillez Jamais” (Never Work)—refer to the famous slogan of the Situationists, who envisioned the transformation of alienating wage labor to the point that work and nonwork would be indistinguishable. In the case of Untitled 2010–2015 (14,086), the labor of brick workers is transformed into art. The number 14,086, on the other hand, refers to the number of bricks needed to construct a modest house for a small family in China. Tiravanija here employs the metaphor of family-purposed construction with members of the public. By distributing the bricks among them he expands the intimacy of the family home and opens it up to a de facto community.
The themes of community and social action are also at the core of Tiravanija’s Demonstration Drawings (2006– 2015), which the artist commissioned from Thai artists. Their drawings translate photojournalistic images of mass uprisings against power, oppression, and global capital published in the International Herald Tribune. Executed in a medium characterized by its immediacy, the series underlines the capacity of the masses for spontaneous organization.