floating asylum…

Asile Flottant (Floating Asylum), 2010 by Rirkrit Tirvanija.

For his fourth solo show at Galerie Chantal Crousel, aptly titled Asile Flottant (Floating Asylum), the artist Rirkrit Tirvanija has constructed a sketch of Le Corbusier’s boat of the same name and inserted a section of it into the gallery. Le Corbusier’s barge was designed for the Salvation Army literally as a floating asylum meant to provide temporary over night shelter for vagrants wandering the streets of Paris.

Lesson / Koan : Temporary can last forever.

In Thailand monks predict their country’s fate lies in water – flooding will destroy their homeland, cities in the north whose names begin with either a “Chiang” or “Lam” will be spared, all the others will be ravaged by the deluge.

Original drawings for Asile Flottant by Le Corbusier from 1929.


Le Corbusier conceived of the work as a model for a new social community for the underclass. Tiravanija’s re-creation of the barge was made by workers in Thailand and is on a half-scale proportion to the original, exploring the barge as a structure for living and socializing in a new context.

Asile Flottant (Floating Asylum), 2010 by Rirkrit Tirvanija.

Rirkrit Tiravanija‘s Asile Flottant combines the artist’s interest in social architecture and the intersection between politics and everyday life.

Inside the barge, Tiravanija has installed a collection of political T-shirts both designed and acquired by the artist. Touching upon a variety of topics, the T-shirts highlight “the ability of what we wear to act as a platform for interaction and communication, Tiravanija activates the T-shirt as political space.” The combination of the two elements literally within each other–Le Corbusier’s utopian barge effectively housing politically charged T-shirts worn by people from around the world, questions the level of political participation by the public.

Le Corbusier’s floating asylum as represented by Tiravanija is transformed into an archive of political demonstration, a pavilion that serves to collect and exhibit an ongoing history of the political t-shirt in relationship to the political climate of today.

Asile Flottant of Le Corbusier photographed in Paris on December 14, 2010.

The original Asile Flottant of Le Corbusier from the early 1930’s is worn, but still in use and floating along the Seine.

Rirkrit Tiravanija modelling a T-shirt with his own poltical slogan.


Tiravanija is of Thai descent, but was born in Buenos Aires in 1961 and was raised in  Ethiopia, Thailand, and Canada, and educated in Chicago and New York.  Because of his global upbringing, Tiravanija synthesizes multiple cultural viewpoints and customs with a  focus on artmaking as a social interaction. The current exhibition is no exception,  for the installation combines both  the Thai constructed  barge and the European utopianism of Le Corbusier, effectively emphasizing Tiravanija’s global background.