Trespass channeled the energy of participating artists into a kind of mobile “free speech zone,” within which “anything could happen,” but in this there is no trespassing. Is it free speech if you’ve first paid for all the proper permits? Slogans appeared on signs, banners, t-shirts, and as chants—a vacant affirmation within a format already well declared for such a purpose. Tiravanija’s project in particular promoted a notion of empty democracy—empty in the sense that the artwork is a container that makes no judgments on what it contains, but reaches no conclusions either. One recalls earlier Tiravanija efforts in Los angeles: Demonstration Drawings at 1301PE in 2006, in which the artist commissioned dozens of pencil drawings of photos of protests from the International Herald Tribune, and Murder and Mayhem, the 2011 follow up at the same gallery, where these drawings were reprised in miniature as actual wallpaper. Such works promote “awareness” in some vague, incalculable way, by reducing the messy reality of political struggle to a consumable aesthetic.6 The Kruger shirt echoes the current MasterCard ad campaign; when it comes to commerce, the line between appropriation and complicity is not so clear. The shirts were available for free the day of the parade and also sold through the Trespass website as a fundraiser. (Tiravanija T-Shirt: $20. Participating in a Tiravanija artwork: Priceless.) The “Slogan Tees” come across as a crass attempt to market radical politics as art and vice versa.
Young and Full of Cum
The t-shirts were printed and donated by American Apparel, another of the event’s sponsors. It’s hard to ignore the similarities between the Trespass message and the image of the American Apparel brand. Like an American Apparel ad, Trespass put young and female bodies on display. On top of a float at the head of the parade, a dozen or so girls from South Gate High School moved to Lindsay’s beats in Tiravanija t-shirts and black dance shorts. Near Lindsay’s band, a group of women twirled in sundresses, and a squad of punks stalked the street sporting tight jeans, leather, ripped shirts, cleavage, and cigarettes. As the parade halted in front of the Orpheum Theater, Vaginal Davis led parade-goers in a chant of “Art, Sex, Action, Revolution.” At another stop, Ann Magnuson acknowledged “the young people who are carrying on the tradition of carrying on.” Russian oligarchs are buying all our art, Magnuson continued, but it’s alright because we’re their friends now—and “at least we have a fun art parade!” Perhaps staying above the fray doesn’t require actual transgression or trespassing, but a certain wry narcissism—a parade-cum-protest- cum-fashion show.
Like many contemporary artists, the Trespass organizers are themselves globalized producers and products. West of Rome founder Emi Fontana moved to Los angeles from Italy; Lindsay lives in Brazil, and his music post-DNA is infused with Tropicália; Bangkok-based Tiravanija, who was born in Argentina, has exhibited his full passports as books and prints.7 The parade was followed by a party the next night in Union Station. States the press release, participating artists “integrate[d] underground and cutting edge moments of street life and cultural history in Los Angeles into the party and deliver[ed] it to a sophisticated international art audience of tastemakers.”8 In this statement lingers an indeterminate candidness or cynicism on the part of Tiravanija and company. It seems the emptying-out and repackaging of political forms is their solution to the inadequacies of these same forms. The parade extricated itself from the bothersome specificities of goals or demands, detaching and presenting only a radical aesthetic, a gentrified politics that claimed an identity through its formal proximity to “authentic” demonstrations. One group of marchers held signs referring to social networking websites like Facebook, including one which inadvertently interrogated Trespass: “Is identity about finding oneself or creating oneself?” Tiravanija’s passport is an emblem of nomadic contemporary subjectivity. Here the artist parachutes in to stage a demonstration, elsewhere stops by to spice Swedish meatballs with Thai chilies.9 Ultimately, these relationships have the same quality of ease as Facebook friendships. Liberated from context, the event turned inward.
- In a review in these pages of Tiravanija’s Demonstration Drawings, Andrew Berardini compared Tiravanija’s practice to an extended lifestyle brand. Andrew Berardini, “Everything is Tiravanija’s, But It’s Also Yours,” X-TRA 9.3 (Spring 2007), 44–47.↵
- Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled 2008–2011 (the map of the land of feeling) I-III, 2011. Does this gesture speak to our contemporary condition, or is it simply narcissism? Is narcissism our contemporary condition? Are we dislocated globetrotters or does the globe trot around us?↵
- For his contribution to New reality mix at Högbergsgatan 18, in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1994, Tiravanija augmented the family meatball recipes of young artists with his own blend of Thai spices.↵