Towards a cosmopolitan criticality? Relational aesthetics, Rirkrit Tiravanija and transnational encounters with pad thai

Renate Dohmen

University of Louisiana


Marsha Meskimmon and Nikos Papastergiadis have responded to contemporary art’s concern with transculturalism, audience participation and intersubjectivity by re-articulating the cosmopolitan in relation to both aesthetics and globalisation. Dohmen investigates how their cosmopolitanism translates into a mode of critical address and probes this question with regard to the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija, a key proponent of relational aesthetics, an art movement of the 1990s championing audience participation and the intersubjective. Even though Tiravanija expressly draws attention to his Thai background by cooking pad thai in the gallery, Dohmen detects a striking disavowal of cultural alterity at the heart of relational aesthetics, which she regards as untenable within the context of the art world’s increasing internationalisation. Dohmen demonstrates how relational aesthetics appropriated key aspects of Tiravanija’s Thai-derived outlook while asking how a cosmopolitan outlook might redress and repair this marked critical Eurocentricity.

Full text (PDF, 942KB)

DOI: 10.5456/issn.5050-3679/2013s05rd

Keywords: Cosmopolitanism, relational aesthetics, Rirkrit Tiravanija, audience participation, globalisation, transculturalism

Biographical note
Renate Dohmen teaches art history at the University of Louisiana. She has written on the global turn, the figure of the amateur artist, nineteenth-century album culture and the exhibition culture of British India. Her book Encounters beyond the gallery: relational aesthetics and cultural difference is forthcoming from I.B. Tauris.