The lower galleries of Yerba Buena Center For the Arts have been transformed into a cross between a food market, a fashion show and a funhouse for the quirky exhibit “The Way Things Go.”
Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija and on-site curator Betti Sue Hertz want viewers to think about where things come from in today’s modern disconnected world in the exhbition, which features works by 12 international artists – mixed-media installations with everyday objects, film, video and archive-oriented art – and runs through May 24. “The Way Things Go” is not a lecture about neocolonialism: Tiravanija and Hertz just want people to slow down and think about what (and who) brings consumer products to dinner tables and homes.
Tiravanija – who lives and works in New York, Berlin, and Chiang Mai, Thailand – has been interested the movement of people and things since he spent his childhood traveling the world with his diplomat father.
“Not only do they [consumer products] come from somewhere, but there are stories behind where they come from and there are lives behind those stories,” Tiravanija says. “We need to slow down and read. It’s about reading and listening and observing and paying attention.”
“The Way Things Go” also touches on serious issues involved with the global movement of products, and brings up vestiges of colonialism. “There’s a darker side of trade,” Hertz says. “Why do I go to a grocery store and get a grapefruit from Brazil?”
Illustrating the theme of politics and connections is one display that has a block of sugar from Nigeria with missing chunks. Shippers had to alter it to get through customs in the Netherlands, because while “art” is allowed to go through, sugar from Africa is not. At the same time, European sugar is regularly sold in Africa.
Another theme of “The Way Things Go” is similarity and sharing among cultures. One piece in the show is a table covered with gourds from different countries that have been turned into water jugs and other tools.
A more traditional art object is Thai artist Arin Rungjang’s “Golden Teardrops,” a shiny, several-layers-deep beaded curtain meant to resemble a popular Thai dessert with origins in Portugal.
Tiravanija says he could never pick a favorite piece.
“They’re all my favorite pieces,” he said. “That’s why they’re in the show.”
IF YOU GO
The Way Things Go
Where: Yerba Buena Center For the Arts, 701 Mission S., S.F.
When: Tuesdays-Sundays; closes May 24
Tickets: $8 to $10
Contact: (415) 978-2727, www.ybca.org/the-way-things-go