This Belgian artist’s work captures situations that force one to moments of reflection.
Francis Alÿs: visual reflections of the marginal and the poetic /
Some relate the existence of video art with the technological advancement of the home video-cam, and though it certainly facilitated the creation of this field, its beginnings date back to the cine-poems infiltrated by Man Ray or Marcel Duchamp—though Wolf Vostell and Nam June Paik are the harbingers of the contemporary consummation of this artistic discipline—.
One of the most prominent video artists today is Francis Alÿs (Belgium, 1959). At times comedic, others irreverent, and almost always critical, the images that Francis creates have a language of their own, a personal dynamic; with curiosity as the banner, he exposes everyday or extraordinary situations that invariably invite us to reflect upon. A good example is the project “When Faith Moves Mountains” which digs into cooperation and the stimulus that can literally move mountains—several hundreds of volunteers armed with shovels and good will, begin to remove sand from a dune on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The image is a chain of individuals that seen from different angles displace the sand from the dune; and hence, practicing creation from a social, political, and justice-minded point of view, his videos turn into testimonies or visual manifestos that incite the assimilation of a provoking point of view.
Francis studied the history of architecture and engineering in Europe before being the internationally renowned artist he is today. He has had exhibitions at the Tate Modern in London, at the MALBA in Argentina, and the Reina Sofia Museum in Spain, among others. He has also been recognized at Biennales and International award ceremonies. He has several catalogues and various articles.
Alÿs works in Mexico since the end of the 80s, blending with the surroundings he manages to capture the collective imagination, its customs and traditions. For example, his piece on rotulista (letterer) painters that he worked on with two workshops dedicated to commercial imaging that he asked to reproduce small paintings Francis made with the intention of reflecting upon the original artist, as well as the singularity of each piece for Copy of the Liar (1997).
The series carried out at the Zocalo in Mexico City, are comical situations in which he involves passersby, like when he stares at the sky for a prolonged span of time and while people transit through the plaza some begin to look in the direction the artist observes, and when a good number of people is gathered, Francis flees and leaves them staring with curiosity.
The work of art to a great extent is the awakening of the observer’s critical spirit, another part is composed by a good dose of fun and curiosity. At the end of the day contemplating art should be an experience taken out of everyday norm. Francis Alÿs manages to catapult spectators outside the rhythm of the daily routine, mutating them and giving the gift of a memorable aesthetic experience.
I y IV
Trabzon, Turkey - Aqaba
In collaboration with Julien Devaux and Ajmal Maiwandi
Video documentation of an action
Jardín Botánico, Culiacán, Sinaloa, México
2011Tagged: contemporary art, installations, contemporary artists, Francis Alÿs, artistic vanguards
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