It was the early 1980s when Chantal Crousel decided to open a branch of her gallery in Paris, choosing to represent artists who, despite coming from different nationalities and using different expressive medias, could express a common universal language. Directed today by his son Niklas Svennung, the gallery continues in this important path and until 10 October it was possible to visit the solo show of Rirkrit Tiravanija Untitled 2020 (once upon a time) (after jasper johns), where different slogans, on the border between political activism and commercial marketing, are shown on US maps or on the American flag thus recalling the poetics of Jasper Johns. Known for his ability to bring out the social potential of each individual, Tiravanija has always used slogans in his works such as, for example, at the 2010 Venice Biennale when he had installed a machine that produced bricks on which the phrase “Ne travaillez jamais” (do not ever work), the slogan of the Situationists, was reported in Chinese.
The works exhibited at Galerie Crousel are very interesting and actual. These are works in fabric and marble. The marbles depicted the American flag while the carpets and tapestries were made by the Manufacture d'Aubusson founded in the seventeenth century and recognized by Unesco as a Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and recall the maps of Johns based together with the flags on the recovery of some mass stereotypes. As the critic Jörn Schafaff points out in a dialogue with the artist, for the reference to the United States in a period like the current one of pandemic where it has been underestimated and poorly managed the exhibition appears to be a commentary on the current situation. The artist answered: “I know, and that's why I really wanted it to be out now. At the same time, however, it's something I've been thinking about doing for a while. I've been working with the flag in other materials. In a way, for me this goes all the way back to when I was working with Gretchen Bender. Artists were protesting Ronald Reagan's invasion of Central America. Gretchen made a video animation deconstructing the American flag as part of her multi channel installation Total Recall (1987).” When the art critic asked if his situation has changed compared to when he arrived in the United States, the artist replies: “What happens here in the States partly happens because we let it happen, we let the country dominate all of us in terms of economy, even in terms of philosophy because somehow everything is centered around what this country thinks and does. And this is not the right idea to do that. But I think I have felt this way ever since I arrived. The American dream was immediately recognized as a farce. But this also made it interesting to become an artist because it was a way to dismantle these things, at least for myself. That these things are here now in a show in Paris is because they affect every one of us.”
Tiravanija is one of the most interesting artists on the international scene for his ability to involve us in a work of social transformation that places us first in front of ourselves and then in relation to others, to the context, to ideologies. A practice devoted to openness in a historical moment like the present one where it becomes essential to go beyond individualisms trying to find or rediscover that lost sociality.