“Untitled” can transport you back to 1992, a time when the art world was crumbling, money was scarce, the audience was disappearing and artists like Tiravanija were in the nascent stages of developing sculptural practices that combined Happenings, Conceptual Art, Performance, Fluxus, Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Gordon Matta-Clark and the do-it-yourself ethos of punk. Meanwhile, a new art world was coming into being. Many in this world met or got to know one another in Tiravanija’s early feed-pieces.
This makes Tiravanija a sort of Johnny Appleseed artist, someone who spread the seeds of a new art. Unfortunately, this is where the rub comes in. Many of the people who met back then, and who were figuring out ways to create a new system, have by now become the system. Not only is Tiravanija one of this system’s most prominent members, the ism he and many others evolved — and that came to be known as “Relational Esthetics” — currently dominates international biennials and triennials. These artists are now flown to far-flung locations; they collaborate with, and curate one another into exhibitions. The low point of all this was “Utopia Station,” a sprawling be-in curated by Tiravanija and two bigwig curators (Molly Nesbit and Hans Ulrich Obrist) for the 2003 Venice Biennial. This show quickly devolved into little more than a hippie hangout where people congratulated themselves for being cool enough to sit around and do nothing. What began in 1992 as a heroic way to change the system not only became the system; now it’s the academy.
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