Something very special is currently installed on Level 3 of National Gallery of Victoria International. Rirkrit Tiravanja’s work, Untitled (lunch box) has not only changed the tummy-teasing experience of being a long way from Gallery Kitchen after climbing two spiralling floors of art history, but also adds a new meaning to ‘art consumption’. Bringing food culture to the gallery’s ‘white cube’ in a work that requires gesture and does away with the frame, Untitled (lunch box) encourages visitor participation and enjoyment in a truly sensory and social experience.
As visitor-participant in Tiravanja’s artwork, you are encouraged to engage and forge relationships in ways that are usually unthinkable in a gallery context. Here, you may interact with the artwork through your senses: you may touch, sit at the table, read the Thai newspaper, chat, taste, ingest. Indeed, relationships are paramount, lines are blurred, and you and your fellow gallery-goers become the artwork.
How? At around noon every Friday, Saturday and Sunday a member of staff serves a Thai lunch to four unsuspecting – and surely hungry – visitors to Level 3. As a facilitator, it certainly is tantalising for me too: collecting the ‘tiffin’ (a food box of stacked metal compartments) from the table in the gallery space, and replacing it with the Thai newspaper, my stomach begins to whine. With tiffin in hand, I then board the tram and make my way up to Cookie, run up three levels of stairs (a nice symmetry with NGV!), and ask wonderful Chef Op to fill the tiffin with four different delicious dishes. Now loaded with steaming, aromatic, appetite whetting load (how hungry I am), I retrace my steps to the Gallery and lay the table for our guests. Yes, how nice it is to encourage visitors to ‘do’ art!
Why not join us for some delicious Thai food next weekend? Not only will you get to satiate your third-floor-hunger as part of your Gallery visit, dining (amazingly) as part of and amongst works of contemporary art, but you may even make a friend in one of your fellow participants. What could be more satisfying than sharing an art experience over a good meal – with good company?