THE RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA: WHO'S AFRAID OF RED, YELLOW AND GREEN? Exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
By Lucia Pieto
DCTrending Contributor, Intern
Thai artist, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s first ever exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Green, brings people together amid political images of violence and protest. Walking into the gallery, you’re met with a bustling room of visitors talking and eating one of the three types of Thai curry served at a table in the center of the room.
Thai cuisine care of Beau Thai Restaurant in the Shaw neighborhood.
The walls of the gallery are covered in murals depicting government protests in Thailand, as well as, other protests and uprisings around the world. Projectors are set up around the room to display these images on the wall as artists draw them in charcoal as a part of the exhibit experience. One of the more prominent images displayed on the walls is of a photo taken during the October 6th, 1976 Thammasat University Massacre in which 46 student activists were killed by anti-communist security forces.
In the photo, a man is about to hit a hanged body with a chair as onlookers smile. However, viewers aren’t only meant to focus on the cruelty or intensity of the images but also on the community being created around them. Tiravanija doesn’t create this experience through complex social critique but through the simple act of offering people food. The images on the wall depict a history of political turmoil, but the community built in the room creates a hope for a better future.
In the next room, adjacent to the main exhibit, Tiravanija’s 2011 film Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbors is projected. The stillness of the movie is a contrast to the gallery before. The film follows Lung Neaw, a retired farmer living in a rural village in northern Thailand, as he goes about his daily life. The camera watches him cook, take walks, and talk with his neighbors. Very little editing is used as many of his daily tasks are followed from start to finish. As the audience becomes familiar with Lung Neaw’s life, it becomes apparent that his existence is very quiet and humble, but not simple, countering many stereotypes that urban and western viewers may have about rural asian life.
Though the main gallery provokes thoughts about human existence in the midst of political turmoil, the film provides a look into a more peaceful existence away from consumerism and politics.The final room of the exhibition shows a series of short films curated by Palme d’Or prize-winning filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. One of the films, A Brief History of Memory , by Chulayarnnon Siriphol uses audio of a mother describing the day her son died from a gunshot wound during a political protest over footage of the neighborhood where they had lived. Another film, Bangkok in the Evening, by Sompot Chidgasornpongse uses footage of people in Bangkok standing as Thailand’s national anthem is played over public speakers.
The seven films range in subject and style, but they all deal with aspects of life in Thailand, as well as, anxieties that exist within such a politically divided nation. Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Green runs through July 24th, 2019 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Visit The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at https://hirshhorn.si.edu/ for more information on the exhibit.
Photos: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Cecilia Mencia
Lucia Pieto lives in Washington DC and is interested in film studies, writing poetry, and taking care of neighborhood dogs. She has performed her poetry at Rhizome DC, an art space in Takoma Park. She’s looking forward to studying English at Georgetown University in the fall.