Touchy-feely creations

Touchy-feely creations
Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija uses time as a narrative in his solo exhibit, Time Travelers Chronicle (Doubt): 2014-802,701 A.D.

The last thing an artist or curator usually wants is viewers' fingerprints all over a work of art, but United States and Thailand-based Thai art star Rirkrit Tiravanija encourages everyone to get touchy-feely with his creations.

His new paper works, made during a residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute and now on display in a solo show, include thermo-chromatic works that respond to body heat.

He encourages this reporter to put her palm on a jet black artwork made of extra thick cotton paper. It feels a bit rough in places, there is no indication any drama is about to happen on the black paper, but the thermo-chromatic ink used to make it instantly registers one's inherent heat index.

The result is three distinct palm marks on one work from his The Time Travelers Calendar series, the traces of which, the artist says "will slowly dissipate over time".

Time is a running narrative in his show titled Time Travelers Chronicle (Doubt): 2014-802,701 A.D. that runs at the institute till June 28.

Eight life-sized chromed works on paper are paired with three- dimensional printed objects on chromed pedestals that convert the gallery into a series of time portals. In this way, he continues with the fun, interactive elements that define much of his art.

Featuring 20 works priced between $10,000 and $100,000, the exhibition draws inspiration from Drawing H.G. Wells 1895 The Time Machine.

One series has a rather tongue- in-cheek title: "Second chapter: be sure to pack the toothbrush, eat Curry noodles through the wormhole".

Interestingly enough, for a residency at a print institute where most works are done on paper, Tiravanija has fully stretched the artistic possibilities of the studio. He takes the viewer on an unforgettable art trip where, as the title of one work indicates, "Of course, in the future everything will be chrome".

When he was invited for the residency, he said he wanted to "start experimenting not just with paper and different types of print options, but I also wanted to stretch the possibilities of the space as well to see how I could work with it".

In doing that, he presents a chromed future, through etched stainless steel pieces. Looking through them, you see not just a distortion of your own image but also text and drawings which reference time and allow you to experience it afresh through all the varied possibilities offered by time and space.

These are things the artist is personally interested in. "I like to get lost when I travel. I do not wish to be traced... I like the idea of time travelling where, in a sense, you lose your sense of time."

Regarded as among Asia's leading avant-garde artists, Tiravanija has won praise at biennales such as Berlin and Venice. He has had solo shows at global venues such as New York's Museum of Modern Art, and won awards such as the Hugo Boss Prize from the Guggenheim Museum in 2004.

Born in Buenos Aires to a diplomat father and an oral surgeon mother, the 53-year-old artist was raised in Thailand, Ethiopia and Canada. He now divides his time between New York and his home in Chiang Mai.

His entry into art happened quite by chance. He read something about art in an article in a school magazine that led him to apply for art school in Chicago. He put curry centre stage in museum shows in the early 1990s. Since then, his art has been about interaction between people.

In 2007, at a solo show at the Lasalle College of the Arts here, his art consisted of food visitors could eat.

As part of the exhibition, he cooked Thai food, including pad thai, which visitors could eat during the exhibition. There was also a workshop centred on a cooking station. "I am interested in art in the everyday, in seeing how people respond to it. I have always been interested in the possibilities of what art can be," he says.

Despite having travelled around the world, he has not given up his Thai passport. The number of stamps in it inspired his 25m-long scroll, shown at the Art Stage Singapore art fair in 2012.

The scroll, made using a combination of artistic techniques including screenprint, offset lithography and inkjet print, featured reproductions of his passport pages that spanned two decades from 1988 to 2008, covering places he had visited, seen and experienced.

When asked why he did not change his passport given his global upbringing, he responds with a smile: "You know, it is difficult travelling with a Thai passport. You need visas to get to most parts of the world. The paperwork can be intense sometimes. At one point, my passport was starting to look like a book but I enjoy that difficulty in travel."

View it
Where: Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 41 Robertson Quay
When: Till June 28, 10am to 6pm (Tuesday to Saturday), by appointment only on Monday and closed on Sunday
Admission: Free
Info: Call 6336-3663 or go to

This article was first published on May 3, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.