Over the course of the last two years, Rirkrit Tiravanija travelled several times to the state of Oaxaca to meet and learn from master potters from different regions. During his journeys, he practiced pottery techniques preserved for centuries within local families who have passed their craft down from one generation to the next. With the help and collaboration of Cooperativa 1050º, a cooperative of potters from Oaxaca, Puebla and Chiapas, and led by Kythzia Barrera, Tiravanija worked on special designs for vases, cups and other vessels that will be shown in the exhibition Mezcal vs. Pulque at kurimanzutto from April 30 to July 16, 2022 in Mexico City.
The pottery pieces on view were created between August 2021 and April 2022, and are the result of Tiravanija’s collaboration and were shaped by Margarita Cortés Cruz, Marisela Ortiz Cortés and Gregoria Cruz Peralta from Río Blanco Tonaltepec as well as Silvia García Mateos and Leopoldo Barranco in San Bartolo Coyotepec.
“As we drive through the countryside, I was thinking to myself that meeting all the artisans – all the ladies and Maestro Polo – and not being able to communicate directly, was interesting because then we had to relate to each other as humans. I found their humanity really open and giving, and I feel happy and grateful to all of them for that.
What was interesting to me was that even though they come from a very old and strong tradition, and they are not young anymore, they were open to work with a stranger and enjoy our differences. It is a lot to ask at this moment in the world.
As an experience, it was beyond what I expected. To live together for those days and learn from each other, it was a joyful human experience. Hopefully, with this collaboration, other people will be also touched by the work and help us continue this tradition to the next generation.”
During one of his visits to Rio Blanco Tonaltepec with Cooperativa 1050º and its community, Tiravanija discovered an abandoned stone house that became the inspiration for the exhibition. A wooden reproduction of this house resides in the middle of the gallery and serves as an intimate shelter for viewing the pottery pieces created for it. The structure on view at kurimanzutto was built to recall his encounter with this construction in the middle of the Oaxacan landscape, made of fired wooden planks that emanate the burnt smell of the potters’ ovens.
In previous exhibitions, Rirkrit Tiravanija created spatial environments for Asian tea ceremonies where the act of serving allows the participants to pause their regular activities and observe the present moment for the duration of the ritual. For the exhibition in Mexico, the artist created a similar environment where mezcal and pulque were served during the opening in the clay pieces as a means of honoring the two native beverages.