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Bar 2 Widescreen
Illustration: Chiladen

Communicating Sharing Through Encounter

  • Article
  • PHI Foundation
By  Kim Johnson  &  Prakash Krishnan

Theme: Encounters

Conviviality is defined by different positive connections between people and society. The idea of exchanging tips, sharing anecdotes, or recounting personal memories with complete strangers might seem a bit odd at first… And yet! In his theatrical installation, under the dim light of a retro décor, untitled 2017 (skip the bruising…) (2017) by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, encourages us to do just that.

As educators at the PHI Foundation, we strive to create a welcoming environment where our participants are free to learn intuitively, through conversation.

To communicate the warm spirit of sharing that emanates from this eccentric space, we answered a few questions from a discussion game that we play with our visitors as part of our group guided tours.

Our conversations are inspired by the authenticity of the human relationships in Tiravanija’s film, presented in the bar area of the exhibition JOUEZ/PLAY. Here, the artist emphasizes the importance of the characters’ interactions by placing us at the heart of one of the film’s key scenes. Inspired by the actors’ candour throughout the film shoot, our dialogue is punctuated by questions.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?

Kim Johnson

Prakash Krishnan: It was a book - Useless Magic by Florence Welch. Despite being one of my favourite musical artists (she is the lead singer of Florence and the Machine, who I’ve seen in concert several times) I wasn’t aware she had written this book. It was a very welcome and unexpected gift from a family member that showed me that even though we live apart, they still love and care for me enough to research my interests…

KJ: I love Florence and the Machine. What a beautiful and significant gift!

What are you really excited about?

Prakash Krishnan

KJ: Good question… I’m usually quite reserved when it comes to talking about my future plans, because everything can change so quickly! I’d say that what I’m most excited about in the near future is the idea of spending quality time over the holidays with the people I love most, especially my puppy, Pickle!

PK: Ahh, Pickle! He’s so cute! I can’t wait to meet him in person. You’ll have to bring him to the PHI Foundation one of these days. Dogs are always welcome!

Is there something you want to do but feel too scared to try?

Kim Johnson

PK: As an Aries, I’m known for being fairly courageous… I like a thrill and have already done “scary” activities such as skydiving. However, I have always had the urge to pack up and move abroad… but I’m afraid of the consequences of leaving behind all of my amazing friends, family, colleagues, and opportunities that I have nurtured here.

KJ: I understand that feeling, the desire for newness is often tinged with a kind of ambivalence. I think the genuine bonds you’ve created here in Montréal will live on, regardless of where you choose to live.

What is important to you right now?

Kim Johnson

PK: My relationships are really what keep me grounded and feeling secure. Since I live quite far away from my biological family, continuing to nurture my relationships with my chosen family and community here in Montréal, and taking care of them, is my top priority right now.

KJ: I really recognize myself in what you’re saying. I’m lucky to have my parents close by, but as an only child, sincere friendships are really important to me, and my closest friends are like my brothers and sisters.

Skip bruising rencontre
Installation view, Rirkrit Tiravanija: JOUEZ/PLAY, 2023-2024, PHI Foundation. untitled 2017 (skip the bruising of the eskimos to the exquisite words vs if I give you a penny you can give me a pair of scissors), 2017 © PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, photo: Richard-Max Tremblay

Let’s go back to the space where we hold discussions with our groups of visitors. The piece presented at the PHI Foundation is called untitled 2017 (skip the bruising…) (2017), and it recreates the bar from a film shot by Rirkrit Tiravanija. Produced with a team of fellow artists and friends, it was inspired by the 1974 film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul.

The original film was shot by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a German filmmaker that Tiravanija discovered on a trip to Cologne. Fassbinder had a decisive impact on the Thai artist. Like Fassbinder, Tiravanija often attributes roles to his friends and other close associates.

Both films deal with the theme of seeking belonging in a hostile and anxious context, and highlight the decisive and disruptive role that interpersonal relationships can have in our lives. This is evident in the relationship between Ali and Emmi, the story’s two main characters, as they face oppression and racism from those closest to them.

Karl homquist
Karl Holmquist is a Swedish artist and long-time collaborator of Rirkrit Tiravanija. He plays the role of Emmi in the film Skip the Bruising and has also appeared in untitled 2014 (KH reads), 2014 pictured here.

To wrap up our discussion, I’d like to ask you one last question, which I will also answer: Which movie do you like to watch over and over?

Prakash Krishnan

KJ: Mr. Bean’s Holiday. I love that movie because its humour is very sweet and childlike. The main character, Mr. Bean, communicates mostly through gestures and facial expressions, which means that my anglophone father and my francophone partner can laugh together at the same jokes when we watch it together. It is a wonderful shared moment. Laughter truly is an international language! What’s yours, Prakash?

PK: The film I’ve seen the most and never get tired of is Spirited Away… I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched it since it was released. I find every aspect of it immeasurably beautiful: the story, the themes, the iconic characters, the animation style, the music… it’s a perfect film in my opinion. When I feel upset, it is my go-to comfort film and never fails to make me feel better.

KJ: Oh yes, it’s a masterpiece of animation! Some films have that kind of magic ability to connect us to our emotions and to others.

What particularly struck us during our visits and discussions is the impact of shared experience. All works of art, whether they are presented as participatory or not, can be interpreted and experienced in multiple ways through discussion, contemplation, and group play. 

These invitations to share and to engage in informal exchange have a way of overturning our behavioural habits in museums and make room for a freer and more spontaneous kind of exploration. Thanks to his works, Rirkrit Tiravanija transports us to other worlds, while simultaneously exploring universal themes that bring us back to the human experience.


Movements

Movements: Rirkrit Tiravanija is a tool designed by the PHI Foundation’s Department of Education to encourage visitors to develop and elaborate on some key concepts of the exhibition Rirkrit Tiravanija: JOUEZ/PLAY.

Authors

Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson is an educator at the PHI Foundation. She completed a BA in Art Education at Concordia University in 2016. Kim is involved in the democratization of visual art through her educational and artistic projects in various community centres and cultural institutions in Montréal. As a visual artist, she draws her inspiration from human connections, the feminine and nature.

Prakash Krishnan
Prakash Krishnan is a researcher and cultural worker in the fields of digital media, contemporary art, archives, and accessibility. He completed a master’s degree in Media Studies at Concordia University in 2021 and has penned a number of essays, articles, and reviews for international publications. Prakash is an educator at the PHI Foundation and works with various local organizations, artist-run centres, and collectives on cultural mediation programming and accessibility.

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