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Francis Al每s: Politics of Rehearsal

Francis Al每s: Politics of Rehearsal

Russell Ferguson

Hammer Museum, Los Angeles Steidl

This publication accompanies the exhibition “Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal,” organized by Russell Ferguson and presented at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 30 September 2007–20 February 2008. “Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal” has been generously supported by Fundación/Colección Jumex and Heidi and Erik Murkoff. Additional support has been provided by the Peter Norton Family Foundation and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund. All works courtesy of David Zwirner, New York. Copy-edited by Jane Hyun Designed by Lorraine Wild and Leslie Sun, Green Dragon Office, Los Angeles Printed by Steidl, Göttingen, Germany Copublished by the Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90024; and Steidl, Düstere Strasse 4, 37073 Göttingen, Germany The Hammer Museum is operated by the University of California, Los Angeles. Occidental Petroleum Corporation has partially endowed the Museum and constructed the Occidental Petroleum Cultural Center Building, which houses the museum. Copyright © 2007 by the Regents of the University of California.

Director’s Foreword




Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, and information storage or retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

Russell Ferguson ISBN 978-0-943739-32-8

frontispiece: study for Rehearsal, 2007

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007931757 DVD (back cover): Printed and bound in Germany

Politics of Rehearsal, 2007 Video 30 minutes Courtesy David Zwirner, New York

Selected Exhibition History and Bibliography


director’s foreword It is a great pleasure to bring the work of Francis Alÿs to the Hammer Museum. There is no doubt about the importance of his projects, or the extent of his influence. While everything Alÿs creates has a simplicity that makes it instantly accessible, his work also offers a complexity that continues to resonate long after it has first been seen. This exhibition’s framework of rehearsal and related themes evolved from many conversations between the artist and Russell Ferguson, adjunct curator at the Hammer Museum, over several years. To date, exhibitions of Alÿs’s work have emphasized issues of place, particularly connections to Mexico City, his adopted home. In contrast, “Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal” focuses on concepts of rehearsal and repetition, failure and success, storytelling and performance. The exhibition and this publication explore how these ideas inform his varied practice, and how they reflect in particular the imposition of a certain concept of modernity onto Mexican and Latin American cultures. Over a number of years, Alÿs has developed an approach to his art that has focused less on definitive conclusions and more on strategies of repetition. This has resulted in the creation of a group of works that can be brought together around the idea of rehearsal. This is by its very nature an open-ended process that always remains profoundly open to the emergence of new incarnations for each project. Key elements retain the possibility of being changed. Even the works in this exhibition that have been seen before are subject to reconfiguration by the artist for new spaces and new contexts. Our sincere thanks go to Eugenio Lopez and the Fundación/Colección Jumex as well as Heidi and Erik Murkoff for their generous support of this project. In addition, I extend our gratitude to the Peter Norton Family Foundation and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund, which also made the exhibition possible. Finally, I am deeply grateful to Russell Ferguson. Russell was chief curator at the Hammer until earlier this year, when he became chair of the Department of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles. As was the case with the exhibitions he previously organized for the museum on the work of Christian Marclay and Wolfgang Tillmans, this is the first major museum show in the United States of the oeuvre of a highly influential artist. I am thrilled that he will continue to organize thoughtful and significant exhibitions such as these for the Hammer Museum. Ann Philbin

Study for Déjà Vu, 1996 Oil on tracing paper on cardboard 7 1 ⁄ 2 × 6 3 ⁄ 8 inches


Many people were instrumental in helping to bring this exhibition to fruition, and I offer my

O’Brien, Becky Perez, Janine Perron, Maggie Sarkissian and her staff, Mary Ann Sears,

sincerest thanks to everyone involved with the project.

Deborah Snyder, Sally Suchil, and Billy Taylor, and Kate Temple.

Without funding from generous donors, the exhibition would not have been able to

This book looks as good as it does thanks to my longtime collaborators at Green

move forward. I join Ann Philbin in thanking Eugenio Lopez and the Fundación/Colección

Dragon Office. My deepest thanks go to Lorraine Wild and Leslie Sun for their dedication

Jumex, longtime supporters of Francis Alÿs’s work, as well as Heidi and Erik Murkoff for

to the project. Jane Hyun copy-edited the book with her usual care and skill. I am also

their generous support of this project. In addition, I extend our gratitude to the Peter

grateful to Gerhard Steidl and his team, the publishers and printers of the book.

Norton Family Foundation and to David Teiger for making this exhibition possible. Their generosity is deeply appreciated. My colleagues at the Hammer Museum deserve enormous thanks. Ann Philbin,

The staff of David Zwirner, New York, was extremely generous with their help in all aspects of the catalogue and exhibition. Their commitment to Alÿs’s work is evident and deeply appreciated. Bellatrix Hubert was extraordinarily helpful to me throughout the pro-

director, provides continued passion and support for challenging exhibitions at the

cess, and I also sincerely thank David Zwirner, Angela Choon, Amy Davila, Susan Sherrick,

Hammer. I am also thankful for the support of my curatorial collegues Gary Garrels, James

Donna Chu, Julia Joern, and Wendy White. I would also like to thank Peter Kilchmann of

Elaine, Ali Subotnick, Cindy Burlingham, Allegra Pesenti, and David Rodes, a dynamic

Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich.

group of people with whom it is a pleasure to work. Jenée Misraje, exhibition coordinator, has handled myriad details connected with

I thank my new colleagues in the Art Department at UCLA for all of their support, especially James Welling, Caroline McNeil, Caron Cronin, Rajpal Matharu, Joli Kishi, and

the organization of the exhibition. Curatorial Assistant Claire de Dobay Rifelj provided

Khadijah Rashid. Mieke Marple also volunteered valuable help with my research at a cru-

invaluable help in countless ways with both the exhibition and this book. And without the

cial moment in the writing of my text.

constant support of administrative assistant Emily Gonzalez, I cannot even imagine having been able to complete this project. Jennifer Wells Green, director of development, worked to secure funding for the exhibition with her usual tirelessness, along with her staff Megan Kissinger, Alison Perchuk, David Morehouse, and Laura Sils. The communications department headed by Miranda

Rafael Ortega was Alÿs’s collaborator on many of the works shown here. He was more than generous with his time on my visits to Mexico City and was also willing to lend us his indispensible expertise on technical aspects of the installation. I very much appreciate his help. In addition, I would like to thank Brian Butler, Lynne Cooke, Agustín Coppel, Alfonso

Carroll, with assistance from Sarah Stifler, Morgan Kroll, Julia Luke, and Keith Bormuth, did

Cornejo, Michael Darling, Julien Devaux, Mireya Escalante, Craig Garrett, Alejandro

excellent work in publicizing the exhibition. James Bewley, director of public programs,

González Iñárritu, Bob Gunderman, Lucero Gutierrez, Yuko Hasegawa, Karin Higa, Frances

along with Aimee Chang, Cole Akers, and Darin Klein, organized an exciting array of lec-

Horn, Enrique Huerta, Atsuko Koyanagi, Gabriel Kuri, James Lingwood, Michael Mack,

tures and discussions around the show.

Ramiro Martinez, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Ivo Mesquita, Abaseh Mirvali, Tobias Ostrander,

Portland McCormick, senior registrar, with Julie Dickover and Kate Bergeron, han-

Estella Provas, Emilio Rivera, José Roca, Michael Rooks, Lisa Rosendahl, Eugene Sadovoy,

dled the loans and shipping with their ever-impressive precision. As always, I rely on them

Guillermo Santamarina, Kitty Scott, Melanie Smith, Randy Sommer, Angel Gustavo Toxqui,

with complete and justified confidence. Peter Gould and his staff were essential in installing

Rose Vekony, Lourdes Villagomez, and Christopher Waterman.

the exhibition. As usual, Peter handled every complexity with tact and precision. My other colleagues at the Hammer Museum also deserve thanks for their continued support: George Barker, Lynne Blaikie, Paul Butler and his staff, Tiffany Daneshgar, Stephen

And finally, I extend my deepest appreciation to Francis Alÿs for his work and for his openness to exchanging ideas and plans for this exhibition. It has truly been a pleasure to work with him in putting the project together.

Foley, Andrea Gomez, Jenni Kim, Mo McGee, Michael Nauyok and his staff, Catherine Russell Ferguson

Russell Ferguson


Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal

We know the conventions of the masterpiece: it is a work of art that is totally resolved, that leaves nothing to be added. As Virginia Woolf put it, “A masterpiece is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it’s there complete in the mind.”1 Comparably, Michael Fried has influentially argued that in a successful work of art, at every moment the work itself is wholly manifest.... It is this continuous and entire presentness, amounting, as it were, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness, as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief incident would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it. 2 Francis Alÿs, despite making some of the most compelling art of recent years, has an ambivalent relationship to this idea of complete resolution. He certainly wants his work to remain in the consciousness of those who see it. He seeks the clearest possible articulations of the premises that he wishes to explore. In that sense he is looking for the quality of instantaneous presentness that Fried identifies. Yet he is at the same time highly reluctant to bring any work to an unequivocal conclusion. Certain ideas and motifs are kept open, always available to be pushed in new directions, reconfigured for new situations. In addition, he has consistently embraced a durational element in his work. Indeed, he has explicitly described his work in these terms, as “a sort of discursive argument composed of episodes, metaphors or parables, staging the experience of time in Latin America.” 3

Study for Song for Lupita, 1998 Pencil on tracing paper 13 3 ⁄ 4 × 11 1 ⁄ 2 inches



From the beginning of his career as an artist, Alÿs has adopted a way of working that

Perhaps this idea is most explicit in A Story of Deception (2003–06). This film was shot

tends to reject conclusions in favor of repetition and recalibration. He has, that is, put the

in Patagonia, almost as the by-product of another project. Originally Alÿs went there to

idea of rehearsal at the heart of his practice. As the celebrated theater director Jean-Louis

film the ostrich-like birds called nandus. The impetus for that project was a story that the

Barrault put it, the rehearsal is “the creative period. For the actor it is the specifically artistic

Tehuelche people used to hunt nandus by walking after them for weeks, until the birds

moment. He sketches out, he effaces, he repents, he conjures up.” This process means that

collapsed from exhaustion. The relationship of the role of walking to his own work was fas-

the moment of completion is always still to come. Each completed rehearsal opens the

cinating to Alÿs, but in the end he felt that his film stayed too close to a conventional nature

door to a further rehearsal, one more iteration in which things can be improved, simplified,

documentary. What he did find, however, when looking at his footage were the mirages

or deleted. If a work is still in rehearsal, then it can always be changed. The moment of

that would appear down the dusty roads along which he was traveling. In the end, the work

completion is always potentially delayed. For Alÿs, then, the final work is always in some

became this footage, an endlessly shimmering mirage that is always retreating down the

sense projected into the future, a future that is always advancing just ahead of the work. In

road just ahead of the viewer. As he has said of this work:


the interim it can constantly be revisited, and its presence can be constantly shape-shifting, not just in the form of documentation through photographs or video, but also through

Without the movement of the viewer/observer, the mirage would be nothing

written descriptions or oral accounts passed from person to person.

more than an inert stain, merely an optical vibration in the landscape. It is our

The refusal of closure is true not just of performance-based works, but also of the

advance that awakens it, our progression towards it that triggers its life. As it

paintings, drawings, and sculptures in Alÿs’s studio, which often remain there for years,

is the struggle that defines utopia, it is the vanity of our intent that animates the

picked up and put down again, sometimes worked on, sometimes destroyed, or sometimes

mirage, it is in the obstinacy of our intent that the mirage comes to life, and that

used as starting points for new work. Each delay in letting them leave his hands increases

is the space that interests me.5

the potential for them to be reconfigured in some newly productive way. His drawings in particular bear the traces of endless revision. In the end they are palimpsests of overlaid scraps of paper, held together with tape. Works that are performative can constantly be tested out in new situations, different countries, even. Does a premise that works in Mexico City still work in Europe? In Los Angeles? And does it work in the same way, or differently? Some turn out to work the same; others are radically changed by their context. Alÿs’s emphasis on process and response does not, then, tend towards the immaculate resolution of the masterpiece. The idea of rehearsal does, however, contain within it an ideal of what the finished work might possibly be, even if its incarnations continue to flicker and change in the light of the fire in the Platonic cave. For Alÿs, that flickering, the movement back and forth and around an idea, is as productive as a determined path towards a fixed and identifiable goal. In some cases, there may well be no goal beyond the process, which is almost always a series of more or less tentative moves towards an idea.

A Story of Deception, 2003–06 In collaboration with Rafael Ortega and Olivier Debroise 16mm film 4:20 minutes


The artist’s unwillingness to bring a decisive closure to a work is evident even in his titles. Anyone who has tried to study Alÿs’s oeuvre rapidly comes up against the fact that the very concept of “title” is exceptionally fluid for him. Unsurprisingly, there are Spanish and English titles. But titles also change over time. The same title might be given to different works. Some seem to have multiple titles. A number have formal titles, but also nicknames. Dates are also sometimes quite slippery and can be extended by a number of years, as Alÿs continues to make new interventions into apparently completed works. Even his activity as an artist began tentatively. Only when he was in his early thirties, after he had trained and practiced as an architect and had moved from Belgium to Mexico, did he begin to experiment with art. He began, in the early 1990s, with a series of attempts to address his overwhelming experience of Mexico City. As he described it, “The first—I wouldn’t call them works—my first images or interventions were very much a reaction to Mexico City itself, a means to situate myself in this colossal urban entity.” One of the earliest consisted of three pieces of red, white, and green chewed gum, stuck to a wall in the sequence of the Mexican flag (Flag, 1990). For Alÿs, an increasing fascination with the various ways in which resistances to Western modernity were played out in Mexico went hand in hand with his own inclination to avoid definite conclusions. In Mexico City, the rebar that sprouts from roofs everywhere sometimes suggests a whole city in a state of rehearsal for a presentation that may or may not be completed.

La logica del ñandú, 2005 Pencil and pen on postcard 6 1 ⁄ 4 × 4 3 ⁄ 8 inches A Story of Deception, 2003 Oil on canvas Studio view

following spread: Study for A Story of Deception, 2005 Pencil and pen on paper 6 3 ⁄ 4 × 9 inches


The first body of his work to draw international attention, the series of paintings he made beginning in 1993 in collaboration with the sign painters (rotulistas) of his Mexico City neighborhood, are predicated on a potentially endless series of revisions and recapitulations. As he described the process, “I commissioned various sign painters to produce enlarged copies of my smaller original images. Once they had completed several versions, I produced a new ‘model,’ compiling the most significant elements of each sign painter’s interpretation. This second ‘original’ was in turn used as a model for a new generation of copies by sign painters, and so on, ad infinitum.”6 They are an endless rehearsal, in other words, with multiple finished performances (paintings), none of them definitive, none of them truly final. With this work, Alÿs took on board another aspect of the rehearsal process: collaboration with others. In theatrical or musical rehearsal, an essential part of practice is the degree to which the different impulses and talents of the various participants operate alongside and against those of the others. No matter how determined or dictatorial an author, director, or composer may be, there is always an element of collaboration that is integral to the passage from initial rehearsal to finished work. Within a year of beginning the rotulista project, Alÿs could say of his collaborations with the sign painters Emilio Rivera, Enrique Huerta, and Juan Garcia that “by now it doesn’t matter whether you are looking at a model, a copy, or a copy of a copy.”7 The collaborative element was integrated into the authorship of the works themselves. At the same time, the rehearsal process remained ongoing. Each set of paintings would be complete in itself, yet the series would remain permanently incomplete.

Untitled (Sign Painting Project), 1993–97 Oil on canvas and enamel on sheet metal 8 5 ⁄ 8 × 10 5 ⁄ 8 inches 36 1 ⁄ 4 × 47 5 ⁄ 8 inches 36 1 ⁄ 4 × 45 1 ⁄ 8 inches

following spread: Untitled (Sign Painting Project), 1993–97 Acrylic on board and oil on canvas 63 3 ⁄ 4 × 43 1 ⁄ 2 inches 47 1 ⁄ 2 × 36 3 ⁄ 4 inches 11 1 ⁄ 4 × 8 5 ⁄ 8 inches 9 3 ⁄ 8 × 7 1 ⁄ 8 inches

pages 22–23: Sign-painting studio, Mexico City, 1996, Juan Garcia at right




In Turista (Tourist, 1994), Alÿs simultaneously included himself among the people of the capital and acknowledged that he remained an outsider. Standing alongside workers with signs advertising their availability as plumbers, electricians, or painters, Alÿs offered himself as a turista, a tourist. A tourist, obviously, would not normally be considered a worker of any kind. As Cuauhtémoc Medina has pointed out, however, there is more than self-deprecating irony at work here: “In his attempt to pass off his work as ‘professional observer’ of other people’s everyday life as a professional activity, he is reflecting on his status as a foreigner and also on the ambiguity of the idea of his ‘work’ as an artist.”8 “Tourist” is not a job. Is “artist”? By claiming the debased title of tourist, Alÿs is also, characteristically, delaying his assumption of the role of artist. He is still just looking: At the time I think it was about questioning or accepting the limits of my condition of outsider, of “gringo.” How far can I belong to this place? How much can I judge it? By offering my services as a tourist, I was oscillating between leisure and work, contemplation and interference. I was testing and denouncing my own status. Where am I really standing? In one of a number of works titled Set Theory (1996), a tiny figure sits alone in an upturned glass of water, again an image of isolation. Later in 1996, however, just around the corner

Set Theory, 1996 Mixed media

Turista, 1994


from the railings where he had advertised himself as a tourist, an unexpected incident introduced a change in Alÿs’s role as observer, and the precise moment is documented. If you are a typical spectator, what you are really doing is waiting for the accident to happen (1996) begins with the artist in quintessential observer mode, videotaping the movements of a plastic bottle as it is blown by the wind (and occasionally kicked) around Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo. After about ten minutes the action comes to an abrupt end when Alÿs unthinkingly follows the bottle into the street and is hit by a passing car. In a moment he goes from observer to protagonist. The endless irresoluable rolling of the bottle had in fact led to a conclusion. For once, there could be no more delay. Suddenly it seemed that all the observation had been leading up to this moment. In fact, it is not possible to observe an action without affecting it. The observer is always involved, always implicated. From here on, there would be not simply rehearsal, but also a politics of rehearsal.

If you are a typical spectator, what you are really doing is waiting for the accident to happen, 1996 Video 10 minutes


To put it that way, however, suggests more of an overarching schema than Alÿs would acknowledge. Another way in which he separates himself from Woolf ’s completeness or Fried’s instantaneous presentness is in his attraction to fragments rather than wholes. One of his avatars is certainly The Collector (1990–92), a little dog-like object on rubber wheels, its body magnetized, that Alÿs led through the streets to pick up metallic bits and pieces as it went. Here we can see a developing predilection for the random, for the leftovers of the city in preference to the all-encompassing modernist rationalism that had informed Alÿs’s earlier training as an architect. Further, in this apparently simple piece, we can see the origins of Alÿs’s future as a creator of rumors, of urban myths—the man who led a magnetic toy dog on a string through the streets of the city.

opposite: Collectors, 1991–2003 Map mounted on wood, photographs, graphite, and oil on vellum right and following spread: The Collector, 1990–92 In collaboration with Felipe Sanabria Magnets, metal, and rubber wheels 8 5 ⁄ 8 × 4 × 12 5 ⁄ 8 inches pages 32–33: Study for The Collector, 1991 Pen on paper 6 1 ⁄ 4 × 10 1 ⁄ 4 inches


These stories, however, are themselves fragments, moments snatched in media res, the way they might be experienced by a passerby. I once asked Alÿs whether he had ever considered making a conventionally structured narrative film. “I rarely deal with more than one idea at a time,” he replied. “In that sense, paradoxically, I am not a storyteller. Except if you look at a story as a succession of episodes. But if I were to make what you call a ‘more complete story,’ I would not start at the beginning or the end. I would need to work from some middle point, because the middle point, the ‘in between,’ is the space where I function the best.” Re-enactments (2000) may be the closest thing Alÿs has produced to a conventional narrative. After buying a 9mm Beretta handgun in a downtown Mexico City gun shop, he proceeded to stroll around the streets with the loaded gun in his hand, apparently without attracting much attention, until the police finally arrested him. Alÿs’s longtime collaborator Rafael Ortega filmed the walk. This narrative has a clear beginning and ending, and in between it has great suspense, as the viewer waits for the inevitable denouement. The following day, Alÿs repeated the action with a replica gun, again filmed by Ortega. This time everything was staged. Astonishingly, even the policemen who had arrested Alÿs the day before agreed to reenact their roles. While the repetition of the action might seem to imply that this work is itself a form of rehearsal—the real incident as a kind of rehearsal for the reenactment—the clear closure of the narrative means that Alÿs sees it somewhat differently. The first performance was not a rehearsal for the second. The second was a reenactment of the first. The difference is crucial. For Alÿs, Re-enactments is less about rehearsal than it is about how actions that take place in real time are always susceptible to being recuperated by their own documentation.

Study for Re-enactments, 2000 Pencil and pen on paper 8 1 ⁄ 4 × 11 inches

Re-enactments, 2000 In collaboration with Rafael Ortega Two-channel video 5:20 minutes





I wanted to question the rapport we have today with the medium of perfor-

Re-enactments itself remains a fairly basic snatch of narrative, but most of Alÿs’s stories

mance, the ways in which it has become so mediated by other media, film and

are even more episodic, broken up into little pieces like those The Collector draws to itself.

photo in particular, and how they can distort and dramatize the immediate

As Michel de Certeau put it, “Stories about places are makeshift things. They are composed

reality of the moment, how they can affect both the planning and the subsequent

with the world’s debris.”9 But out of such debris things do come. In 61 out of 60 (1999), sixty

reading of a performance. What is supposed to be so unique about performance

plaster figurines of Zapatista fighters from Chiapas were broken into pieces; the pieces were

is its underlying condition of immediacy, the imminent sense of risk and failure, etc.

then combined to create sixty-one guerillas. Out of nothing comes something. Out of these fragments came another fighter. All the figures are now a little incomplete, missing some-

Re-enactments is shown as a double projection, with the two performances taking place simultaneously and side by side. Which one shows Alÿs with a real gun and which

thing, yet somehow something greater than the sum of the parts has appeared. 61 out of 60 is unusual for Alÿs’s work of the 1990s in that it is easy to read a quite spe-

with the replica, however, is not necessarily clear. Alÿs had heightened the risk factor

cific political meaning into the work, although it is certainly not alone in this. Both Housing

immensely, not to make a spectacular performance but primarily to explore the degree

for All (1994) and Cuentos patrióticos (Patriotic tales, 1997) make overt political references

to which the documentation of the performance itself would dissipate that element of risk.

too. In Housing for All, Alÿs constructed a kind of tent made from election banners, some of

By risk here I mean not only the real danger to which Alÿs exposed himself, but also the

them bearing the title’s slogan, and installed it in the Zócalo on election day: the tent was

sense of unpredictability and potential disaster that is inherent in all live performance.

held aloft by the hot air blowing from a subway vent. Cuentos patrióticos referred to a politi-

The real issue with Re-enactments really emerged for him only later, when the piece was shown outside Mexico. At that point it tapped into stereotypes about Mexico City as a hotbed of crime and violence. The work seemed to have become about crime rather than performance. “I forgot a basic rule, “Alÿs says now. “When a work is produced within a very local context, it can easily acquire a totally different reading abroad, so the parameters for the piece need to take into account its possible life as an export. I had a similar problem with the sign-painting project. It was often reduced to an exotic exercise of style.”

61 out of 60, 1999 Plaster figures

cal demonstration of 1968.

Housing for All, 1994


More typical, however, is the animated film Song for Lupita (1998), the action of which consists entirely of a woman pouring water from one glass to another and back again. Alÿs has described this work as “a kind of demonstration of the Mexican saying ‘el hacerlo sin hacerlo, el no hacerlo pero haciendolo,’ literally ‘the doing but without doing it, the non-doing but doing it,’ staging a kind of resignation in an immediate present, inducing a complete hypnosis in the act itself, an act that was pure flux, without beginning or end.” Even simpler is the video Perro pelota (2000), which documents throwing a ball for a dog that returns it, over and over again. The motif expressed here in its most straightforward form is one that Alÿs has made use of in many different ways: going in one direction, then returning, then repeating. Caracoles (1999), a precursor of Rehearsal 1 (1999–2004), shows a young boy kicking a bottle up a steep street, only to let it roll back to him. An equally simple work, but with a quite different form, is Déjà Vu (1996–the present): a painting and its exact copy installed separately in an exhibition, so that the viewer sees the painting once, but then unexpectedly comes upon it again a little later.

Déjà Vu, 1996 Oil on canvas 10 1 ⁄ 4 × 12 5 ⁄ 8 inches each

opposite: Song for Lupita, 1998 Video 12 minute loop


opposite: Song for Lupita, 1998 Video 12 minute loop above: Song for Lupita, 1998 Installation at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin


Perro pelota, 2000

Caracoles, 1999 Betacam SP transferred to video 4:20 minute loop



Both the work that is apparently political and that which is apparently not, however,

One of Alÿs’s fascinations has been with the action, sometimes enormously pro-

are informed by a broad interest in the repeated attempts to impose a Northern concept of

tracted, that produces no identifiable result. Paradox of Praxis 1 (1997) is the record of an

modernity on Latin America. In the speech given at his inauguration as President of the

action carried out under the rubric of “sometimes making something leads to nothing.” For

United States in 1949, Harry Truman announced that he would “embark on a bold new

more than nine hours, Alÿs pushed a block of ice through the streets of Mexico City until it

program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available

completely melted. On one level, this was, as Alÿs explained, “a settling of accounts with

for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.” It was a sincere version of

Minimalist sculpture.”14 Like many artists of his generation, perhaps most notably Felix Gon-

that impulse that, in some respects, led Alÿs to Mexico in the first place. But the Northern

zalez-Torres, Alÿs felt the need to (literally) work his way through the powerful legacy of the

program of modernization and growth has met consistent resistance, even as it has been

dominant art movement of the previous generation. And so for hour after hour he strug-

enthusiastically embraced by elite sectors. Carlos Monsiváis has described this tendency as

gled with the quintessentially Minimal rectangular block until finally it was reduced to no

pursued with an almost religious intensity: “The Utopia of this century—that which has been

more than an ice cube suitable for a whisky on the rocks, so small that he could casually

desired above all else, and desired most deeply—has been the modernization of body

kick it along the street. His hours of labor were themselves distilled into a video only five

and soul…. Efficiency and productivity become not only the requirement of industrial sur-

minutes long.


vival but a call for the rescue of the new Holy Grail, Growth, now in the hands of the faithless whose major heresy is unproductivity.”11 As Medina has described the results of this crusade, however: Southern countries’ economies are the constant expression of failed modernization. It is no accident that they seem to be under the curse of an eternal return: to start a process of development over again every five or ten years and leave it incomplete after coming across new obstacles. When this happens in conditions of inequality, degradation, and coercion, the economy never manages to gain ground. There are more than enough reasons; the wounds left by exploitation make it impossible for people to believe in an ethics of work and the neo-colonial extraction of wealth does not generate markets activated by the seduction of consumerism—not to mention that northern capital and investment actually find the periodic breakdowns quite profitable.12

Paradox of Praxis 1, 1997 Video 5 minutes

This context—social, political, economic, and psychological—underlies and informs the whole structure of repetition and rehearsal with which Alÿs works. Against the dogma of modernity, progress, and efficiency, he has placed anecdotes, gestures, and parables. In this context, the pouring back and forth of the water in Song for Lupita can be, as Alÿs described it, “a reflection on the struggle against the pressures of being productive.”13

9:15 a.m.

9:34 a.m.

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3:30 p.m.

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3:34 p.m.

6:05 p.m.


Beyond the specific relationship with Minimalism, though, there is also something casually insouciant about Alÿs’s performance. Gritty as the context is, there is something of the dandy in his willingness to put hours of effort into producing a result that is almost literally invisible. As the great theorist of dandyism Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly wrote, “A Dandy may spend ten hours a day dressing, if he likes, but once dressed he thinks no more about it.”15 The dandy, that is, may put an enormous amount of energy into an activity, but if it should ever appear that he did, or that he was in any way concerned with the result, then the effect will be lost. Much of Alÿs’s practice reflects a comparable desire to downplay the results of his intensive labor. Sometimes making something leads to nothing. Alÿs’s most recent activity in making something that leads to nothing, Rehearsal 3 (2006–07), is actually related to the ancient idea of generating something from nothing. In his studio, Alÿs and his collaborators have been working on models for perpetual motion machines, so far without success. The utopian idea of a machine that would produce energy without consuming it has been a dream of scientists and engineers for centuries, rather like alchemy. For Alÿs, as sincerely as he produces the wooden models based on drawings in old texts or from designs of his own invention, this work is also a continuation of the critique of modernity in its utopian aspect as the panacea that is supposed to cure 6:32 p.m.

all ills.

Mexico City, 1994 Photograph overleaf: Study for Rehearsal, 2002 Pencil, pen, and tracing paper on paper 11 3 ⁄ 4 × 8 1 ⁄ 4 inches Angel Gustavo Toxqui working on models for Rehearsal 3, 2006

6:47 p.m.



Alÿs’s main vehicle for the exploration of doing something while producing nothing, however, has been the act of walking. “Walking,” he offered, “in particular drifting, or strolling, is already—within the speed culture of our time—a kind of resistance. But it also happens to be a very immediate method for unfolding stories. It’s an easy, cheap act to perform.” For many years, he kept in his studio a polyurethane board (“As Long as I am Walking…”, 1992) that bears the following text: As long as I’m walking, I’m not choosing “

“ “

, I’m not smoking

“ “

, I’m not losing

“ “

, I’m not making

“ “

, I’m not knowing

“ “

, I’m not falling

“ “

, I’m not painting

“ “

, I’m not hiding

“ “

, I’m not counting

“ “

, I’m not adding

“ “

, I’m not crying

“ “

, I’m not asking

“ “

, I’m not believing

“ “

, I’m not talking

“ “

, I’m not drinking

“ “

, I’m not closing

“ “

, I’m not stealing

“ “

, I’m not mocking

“ “

, I’m not facing

“ “

, I’m not crossing

“ “

, I’m not changing

“ “


“ “


“ “


“ “

, I will not repeat

“ “

, I will not remember



There are a number of elements that are significant in this text. The first thing that Alÿs declares he is not doing if he is walking is choosing. By walking he can put off a great many

yet to remain hidden from the world—such are a few of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial natures.16

things, but the first of them is having to make any decision, any commitment at all. As in a rehearsal, there may be a plan in mind, but its final resolution is indefinitely delayed.

If we can see in Alÿs the holding oneself apart, the pleasure of being an outsider, especially

Indeed, walking itself could be thought of as a kind of preliminary rehearsal, a time when

early on in his work, he never has the aristocratic, aloof quality that Baudelaire ascribed to

ideas are sorted, impressions and images gathered up for potential use, not in a systematic

the flâneur: “The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”17 For Alÿs,

way but as part of an integration of ideas with environment.

“the flâneur is a very nineteenth-century European figure. It goes with a kind of romanticism

It should also be noted that in this relatively early work, Alÿs is still in the role of

which does not have much space in a city like Mexico City.” The closest Alÿs has come to

observer, not actor. None of these activities or non-activities are specific to any particular

the role of a true flâneur is through his stand-in, Mr. Peacock, the real peacock that Alÿs sent

place. As Alÿs said of his early years in Mexico, “I think that my status as an immigrant freed

to represent him at the 2001 Venice Biennale (The Ambassador). Alÿs himself stayed away.

me of my own heavy cultural heritage, or my debt to it if you like.” But he was not yet quite

In large part, the trajectory of his work has been to get beyond the isolation of the flâneur, to

ready to engage with the new culture in which he now lived. In “As Long as I am Walking…”

feel at home not in the sense of the “man of the world” who feels at home everywhere, and

he is still the uncommitted outsider, a position to which he has a tendency to revert, even

not to remain simply an observer, but to be at home enough with his own role in specific

as over the years his work has become steadily more explicit in its social and political

settings actually to intervene.

engagement. There still remains somewhere in the work a desire to keep the world at arm’s length. This renunciatory quality cannot help but remind us of the artist’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi, who gave away all his worldly possessions. It was St. Francis, after all, who said that “it is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching,” a sentiment that could not but resonate with Alÿs. And of course, the saint was famous for his affinity for animals, a trait that the artist also shares (we need only think, for example, of Sleepers [1999–2006], in which men and dogs are treated with equal sympathy, both stretched out asleep in the street). But, on the other hand, Alÿs is scrupulous about not preaching. He does not walk to instruct. Is he then, in his walking, a flâneur? In Baudelaire’s well-known characterization of “The Painter of Modern Life,” he wrote that: For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and

The Ambassador, 2001



Towards the end of Alÿs’s list, he promises not to repeat. Of course he will repeat; he does repeat, but each repetition makes something different. And he will not remember, he says. But he will. And it is the repetition that enables the remembering, not only for the artist but for his audience, as the pattern of circulation continues. In 1995, Alÿs performed The Swap, for which he stood in a Mexico City metro station all day long swapping one object for another with passersby. Beginning with his sunglasses, he acquired and disposed of a variety of objects, including shoes, a flashlight, a hat, and a bag of peanuts. Obviously this is an action that potentially could be extended indefinitely. It is a version of Franciscan renunciation for the market economy, in which each object disposed of reappears in another form. Comparably, in The Seven Lives of Garbage (1995), Alÿs dropped seven small bronze sculptures of snails into the garbage. He later found two of them for sale in the streets, discarded but brought back into circulation regardless. He bought one of them back. The others continue their slow journey through the market.

The Seven Lives of Garbage, 1995

The Swap, 1995


Related to the idea of circulation as a way of delaying completion is The Loop (1997). For the exhibition “inSITE,” held in San Diego and Tijuana, Alÿs’s contribution was a journey that started in Tijuana and ended in San Diego. Alÿs made the journey, however, without crossing the border between Mexico and the United States that divides the two cities. Instead, he embarked on a five-week-long trip that took him from Tijuana to San Diego, but only after passing through Mexico City, Panama City, Santiago, Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok, Rangoon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Anchorage, Vancouver, and Los Angeles, circumnavigating the globe to arrive a mere hundred yards away from his starting point on the other side of the fence. A global version of a walk around the neighborhood, the journey was an enormously elaborate way of producing an absolutely minimal result, the transit between Tijuana and San Diego. Given the fraught nature of American debates over the immigration of undocumented Mexican workers in the United States, however, this piece inevitably took on a politically charged set of connotations. Although Alÿs himself made a point of not articulating any of these, they were nevertheless inescapable. Between the long series of refusals documented in 1992 in “As Long as I am Walking…” and the apparently rambling but politically loaded project of The Loop five years later, Alÿs had learned how to give his endless procrastinations a politics.

The Loop, 1997, Burma opposite: The Loop, 1997


Cuentos patrióticos uses the idea of circulation, but this time it takes place around the flagpole in the center of the Zócalo in Mexico City. Alÿs walks in a circle around the pole, followed by a sheep. With each turn around the pole, another sheep joins in, until he is trailed by a long line of them, forming a circle. Once the chain is completed, the first sheep that entered leaves the scene, followed by the second, the third, and so on, until Alÿs finds himself following the last sheep around the flagpole. This work uses the kind of repetitive structure Alÿs has found useful elsewhere, but here, again, there is now a specific political reference. In 1968, as Pablo Vargas Lugo described it, “Thousands of bureaucrats were herded into the Zócalo to demonstrate in favor of the government. Showing their frustration in an act that was both rebellious and ridiculous, they turned their backs on the official tribune and began to bleat like a vast flock of sheep.”18

Cuentos patrióticos (Patriotic tales, 1997) In collaboration with Rafael Ortega Video 24:40 minutes



In the late 1990s, Alÿs specifically began to examine the mechanisms of rehearsal as such. His film Rehearsal 1 shows a red Volkswagen attempting to reach the top of a steep hill in Tijuana. At the same time a soundtrack plays, featuring a brass band rehearsing a danzon, recorded in Juchitan by Alÿs a few months earlier. The two elements are in fact synchronized. Alÿs listened to the recording on headphones as he drove. While the musicians are playing, the car goes up the hill. When the musicians lose track and stop, the car stops. And while the musicians are tuning their instruments and talking among themselves, the car rolls back down the hill. As Alÿs has described this work, “The stubborn repetition effect hints at a story that is constantly delayed, and where the attempt to formulate the story takes the lead over the story itself. It is a story of struggle rather than one of achievement, an allegory in process rather than a quest for synthesis.”19 The actual rehearsal of the band turned out to be the perfect vehicle through which to articulate a process that inevitably involves endless repetition. “There was a very physical way of rendering this constant pushing away of the final moment, or climax, or conclusion.” At the same time, however, it manifests the overt collaboration of a number of people that results in small but incremental changes towards a better performance. The focus on rehearsal keeps process itself foregrounded, and any conclusion deferred. Alÿs has been explicit about the driving force behind this work: “The intention behind these short films was to render the time structure I have encountered in Mexico, and to some extent in Latin America. It also recalls the all-too familiar scenario of a society that wants to stay in an indeterminate sphere of action in order to function, and that needs to delay any formal frame of operation to define itself against the imposition of Western Modernity.”20

Rehearsal 1, 1999 Pencil and type on paper 11 × 8 1 ⁄ 2 inches

overleaf: Studies for Rehearsal 1, 1999 Pen and pencil on paper 8 1 ⁄ 2 × 11 inches each page 81: Model for Rehearsal 1, 1997



Rehearsal 1, 1999–2004 In collaboration with Rafael Ortega Video 29:25 minutes




The political nature of the question of time in Mexico is made clear by the Chiapas guerilla leader Subcommandante Marcos, who said of his conflict with then-President of Mexico Vicente Fox that it was “a struggle between a clock operated by a punch card, which is Fox’s time, and an hourglass, which is ours. The dispute is over whether we bend to the discipline of the factory clock or Fox bends to the slipping of the sand.” Marcos also commented, on his unwillingness to actually take power in Chiapas, that “what we have to relate is the paradox that we are. Why a revolutionary army is not aiming to seize power, why an army doesn’t fight, if that’s its job.”21 Well, perhaps one might say, “Sometimes, doing nothing leads to something,” the principle that Alÿs used in Looking Up (2001), an action in which he drew a crowd simply by standing in a public square, looking intently upwards. Rehearsal 1 was the first in a series of works under the rehearsal rubric, but Alÿs’s use of real rehearsal has not by any means been limited to that series. His 2001 collaboration with film director Alejandro González Iñárritu was the first work to use the title Politics of Rehearsal (in full, Politics of Rehearsal (or what makes the traffic move at 6pm on a Friday in Mexico City)). This work used as its raw material rehearsal footage from González Iñárritu’s movie Amores Perros (2000). In Alÿs’s subsequent Essay on the Movie “Amores Perros” (2003– 07), a single brief scene is acted out from multiple viewpoints, all of which are visible through successive steps: from the first rehearsal with the actors reading their parts around a table in the director’s office, then standing up, then on location, then later in costume and going through the multiple takes of the final shooting. The only thing missing is the scene as it finally appeared in the director’s cut of the film. Everything except the official fiction is included.

Politics of Rehearsal (or what makes the traffic move at 6pm on a Friday in Mexico City), 2001 Installation at Kunst-Werke, Berlin


Alÿs has in fact developed an entire repertoire of ways to repeat. His animation The Last Clown (2000) features endless repetition: the work is a loop with no beginning and no end. Cantos patrioticos is a loop that advances, overlapping itself and creating interference. Rehearsal 1 is based upon a pendulum movement: “Like a pendulum swaying at the end of its swing, then returning to the center, regaining speed along the way, the stuttering melody governs the period of the car, inducing its driver into a quasi state of suspension, hypnotized in the repeated act, conveying a state of resilience, of patient or frustrated absorption.”22 R.e.h.e.a.r.s.a.l. (2000) shows an animator working on the word “rehearsal” itself. It follows a pyramid structure that slowly advances letter by letter to the whole word, then steps down again. In Rehearsal 2 (2001–06), a stripper performs a zig-zag stepping backwards and forwards through her constantly delayed performance. For Alÿs, “It is a metaphor of Mexico’s ambiguous affair with Modernity, forever arousing, and yet, always delaying the moment ‘it’ will happen.”23 Unlike Rehearsal 1, Rehearsal 2 does finally reach its climax, albeit after apparently endless delays. The video Politics of Rehearsal (2007, included with this book) shows raw footage for this work—essentially a rehearsal for a

R.E.H.E.A.R.S.A.L., 2000 Video 2:30 minutes

The Last Clown, 2000 Animation 1:30 minute loop

following pages: Studies for Rehearsal 2, 2001 Pen, pencil, and type on paper 11 × 8 1 ⁄ 2 inches each Rehearsal 2, 2001–06 In collaboration with Rafael Ortega Video 14:30 minutes





rehearsal—while the soundtrack consists of a conversation between Alÿs and Medina on the issue of modernity in Mexico. The structure of When Faith Moves Mountains (2002) is that of a moving wave pattern. Tornado (2000–present) is an expanding spiral. All are potentially extendable and repeatable. Alÿs is very circumspect about any direct political impact his work might have: Political could be read in the Greek sense of polis, the city as a site of sensations and conflicts from which the materials to create fictions or urban myths are extracted. I think being based in Mexico City, and functioning in Latin America or other places where you find yourself confronted with ongoing economic, social, political, or military conflicts, the political component is an obligatory ingredient in addressing these situations. But it would be very hard to say to what extent your act can have a real echo in those kind of situations, and even more to what extent there is any relevance for a poetic act to happen.

Tornado, 2000–present Work in progress


In this regard it is worth comparing two versions of what in some ways might be thought of as a single work. In The Leak (1995), Alÿs walked the streets of São Paulo holding a punctured paint can that left a thin wobbly line of blue paint behind him as he passed. That work was a simple gesture, a way of converting the act of walking into something physical, more lasting than the walk itself. When Alÿs revisited this work in 2004, it was for a very different context. This time he walked the so-called Green Line, the pre-1967 border between East and West Jerusalem. And he used green paint, thus literalizing not merely the fact of his passage but also the idea of the Green Line itself, originally so named because in 1948 Moshe Dayan used a green pencil to draw the border on a map of Jerusalem. The green line does not really exist any more in practice, but it is constantly referred to by the different parties of the ongoing dispute. There could hardly be a clearer example of the infusion of new meaning into an old piece. While The Leak remains a work complete in its own right, it is also now reconfigured into a rehearsal for the new version. Alÿs acknowledges the change in the title he gave the new work: Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic (2004). As he has said, “I had reached a point where I could no longer hide behind the ambiguity of metaphors or poetic license. It created a personal need to confront a situation I might have dealt with obliquely in the past.”24 Clearly, the original “poetic” version of the work has become “political” by virtue of the highly charged context into which it has been inserted. It is important, however, to recognize that this is not just a matter of politicizing an earlier work. The second half of the title is equally important: the insertion of an essentially poetic gesture into a situation that is almost always seen through the lens of politics. “I am not a militant,” Alÿs insisted. All the “poetic” gestural elements of The Leak are preserved in the latter version. The work has, however, become more complex, as he has added layers of additional meaning to the original action. Always, however, Alÿs avoids didacticism. As he asks in a text that accompanies Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political, “How can art remain politically significant without assuming a doctrinaire standpoint or aspiring to become social activism?” The answer, it seems, to that question is for it to take on an existence as a story. Alÿs always wants there to be a kind of ideal version of each piece that contains within it a kernel that is coherent enough, simple enough, and relevant enough that it can potentially conThe Leak, 1995


tinue to circulate far beyond the orbit of the realized action itself. As he put it, “I’ll try to always keep the plot simple enough so that these actions can be imagined without an obligatory reference or access to that the story can be repeated as an anecdote, as something that can be stolen, or travel orally and, in the best-case scenario, enter that land of minor urban myths or fables.” In this context, Alÿs cited the early performances of Chris Burden as examples of works that circulated as much by word of mouth as by any image or document. Burden, the artist who had himself shot, or Burden, who had himself crucified on a Volkswagen: these are actions that many people know of only through having heard about them, and for that reason are fascinating to Alÿs. Is the potential story good enough to sustain itself in this way? “If the story is good enough,” he explained, “it will get back to you or reach its shape by itself. If it isn’t, better it dies away.” The model of the story passed on from one person to another is of course an oral one. As de Certeau described the ever-more threatened oral traditions, these are the “fragile ways in which the body makes itself heard in the language, the multiple voices set aside by the triumphal conquista of the economy that has, since the beginning of the ‘modern age’ (i.e., since the seventeenth or eighteenth century), given itself the name of writing.”25 Yet it is in stories passed informally from person to person that a great reservoir of resistance to power persists. “That’s a fundamental aspect of a political strategy in making art,” suggests Alÿs, “because the institutions and the power structure always try to play down the anecdotal. Yet anecdotes weave the fabric of our social existence.”26 Alÿs’s stories are not histories, because histories tend towards resolution. The events of narrative history lead towards some conclusion that, it is implied, was the inevitable result of the actions described. In some ways his stories more resemble the older tradition of the chronicle,

Map for Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic, 2004

following spread: Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic, 2004 Video 17:45 miniutes



a series of events that may or may not relate to each other, passed on from one person to another. In the chronicle, no end is implied, because there are always further potential events to be added. There is also a difference, however, between the idea of the chronicle and the idea of rehearsal. A chronicle is always in the end a series of consecutive events. There may be no final resolution, but one thing unequivocally follows another and exists prior to the next. The mechanism of rehearsal proposes a nonconsecutive chronological structure. No conclusion is necessarily reached, but nor is the rehearsal a rigidly sequential process. Instead, the performers, and we as the audience, can go back and forth in time, starting and stopping and beginning again. The persistence of an oral culture is often related to the survival of old myths. For de Certeau, “These voices can no longer be heard except within the interior of the scriptural systems where they recur. They move about, like dancers, passing lightly through the field of the other.”27 Alÿs is interested less, however, in the persistence of old myths and more in the generation of new ones. This requires convincing the audience for his work to engage in a genuinely interactive relationship with it. “Myth is not about the veneration of ideals— of pagan gods or political ideology—but rather an active interpretive practice performed by the audience, who must give the work its meaning and social value.”28 The work of the artist can only go so far, that is, before the response of the audience enters into the action. It is through them that the work continues into the future, its narrative rehearsed again and again for as long as the story continues to circulate, changing a little in each telling but retaining a core of meaning. The work needs to be sustained through an interactive process that keeps it alive and in circulation. Alÿs expressed this idea very simply in the painting

La Leçon de musique, 2000 Oil on canvas on wood 23 × 27 inches



La Leçon de musique (2000), in which two men sit at a table. Suspended between them is a

tension and an emerging movement of resistance. This was a desperate situation calling for

sheet of paper, which they keep upright by blowing on it from either side. The sheet is frag-

an epic response: staging a social allegory to fit the circumstances seemed more appropri-

ile, and sustaining it requires a constantly rebalanced cooperation.

ate than engaging in a sculptural exercise.”31 The principle that drove When Faith Moves

In one unusual case, Alÿs was able to generate an object, a poster, by creating the story, a rumor, first.

Mountains was “maximum effort, minimal result.” The most apparently minimal change was effected, and only by means of the most massive of collective efforts. In a formal sense, just as Paradox of Praxis has a relationship to Minimalism, with

In 1999 I went to stay in a small town south of Mexico City, and, with the help of

When Faith Moves Mountains Alÿs had in mind the tradition of Earthworks and other inter-

three local people—the agents of propagation—we started asking around about

ventions into the landscape.

“this (fictitious) person who had left the hotel for a walk the night before and had not come back”…Alongside the questions and suggestions made by the inter-

When Faith Moves Mountains is my attempt to deromanticize Land art. When

viewees, people would naturally start drawing a portrait of the missing (sex, age,

Richard Long made his walks in the Peruvian desert, he was pursuing a contem-

physiognomy, clothing, reason or cause for his disappearance, etc.) and little by

plative practice that distanced him from the immediate social context. When

little this invented character became more and more real through the public

Robert Smithson built the Spiral Jetty on the Salt Lake in Utah, he was turning

rumour, until, after three days I think, the local police issued a poster with a

civil engineering into sculpture and vice versa. Here, we have attempted to

“photo-fit portrait” of the missing person. At that point, as the rumour had pro-

create a kind of Land art for the landless, and, with the help of hundreds of peo-

duced a physical trace of evidence of its existence, I considered my involvement

ple and shovels, we created a social allegory. This story is not validated by any

in the project concluded and I left town.

physical trace or addition to the landscape.32


This rumor is certainly one of the most extreme examples of Alÿs’s ability to put a story into circulation. In this case, it is clear that the story was enough. Even in some cases in which a fairly elaborate action was carried out, the story might have been enough. “In the case of the trip around the world, The Loop,” Alÿs said, “many people suspected that I’d never fulfilled the contract, that is, made the trip.” But, he insisted, “The work would have existed just the same; it didn’t really matter whether I did or didn’t go around the world.”30 In the case of When Faith Moves Mountains, however, one of Alÿs’s most ambitious works to date, the work did have to be performed. Its physical reality was crucial to its future existence as something that really, indisputably, happened. Five hundred volunteers with shovels gathered at a huge sand dune on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, and over the course of a day moved it by several inches. Alÿs developed the idea after first visiting Lima in October 2000. The political context was inescapable: “This was during the last months of the Fujimori dictatorship. Lima was in turmoil with clashes on the streets, obvious social

Virtues, 1992 Oil and encaustic on canvas 9 1 ⁄ 2 × 13 3 ⁄ 8 inches

Studies for When Faith Moves Mountains, 2002



The action itself, as documented in photographs and video, is extraordinarily impressive, but in the end the “social allegory” takes over from the work’s undeniable formal presence. The action was completely transitory. The next day, no one could recognize that the huge sand dune had been moved. The true aftermath of the work lies in the ripples of anecdote and image that radiate out from it. “We were just trying to suggest the possibility of change,” said Alÿs. “And it did, maybe just for a day, provoke this illusion that things could

1 Virginia Woolf, letter, 1 January 1933, in

11 Carlos Monsiváis, “Millenarianisms in

21 Marcos, in Gabriel García Márquez and

Nigel Nicolson, ed., The Sickle Side of the

Mexico,” in Mexican Postcards, trans. John

Roberto Pombo, “The Punch Card and the

Moon: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, vol. 5,

Kraniauskas (London: Verso, 1997), 136.

Hourglass: Interview with Subcommandante

1932–1935 (London: Hogarth Press, 1979).

Marcos,” New Left Review 9 (May–June

12 “Maximum Effort, Minimum Result,” in

2001), first published in Revista Cambio

2 Fried, “Art and Objecthood” (1967),

Alÿs and Cuauhtémoc Medina, When Faith

(Bogotá), 26 March 2001.

reprinted in Art and Objecthood (Chicago:

Moves Mountains (Madrid: Turner, 2005), 178.

University of Chicago Press, 1998), 167.

22 Alÿs, “Politics of Rehearsal,” 10. 13 Alÿs, in Diez cuadras alrededor del estudio,

possibly change.” In that sense, When Faith Moves Mountains is a true rehearsal for events

3 Francis Alÿs, interview with the author,

that still remain potential, things that may or may not happen in the future. Looking at the


23 Ibid.

Mexico City, 2005. An edited version of the interview appears in Francis Alÿs (London:

14 Alÿs, in Saul Anton, “A Thousand Words:

24 Alÿs, quoted in Martin Herbert, “The

video of the hundreds of volunteers shoveling together across the dune, we might also think

Phaidon, 2007). All further quotations from

Francis Alÿs Talks About When Faith Moves

Distance Between: The Political Peregrina-

of Subcommandante Marcos’s suggestion that dominant power might one day have to

Alÿs are drawn from this interview unless

Mountains,” Artforum (summer 2002): 147.

tions of Francis Alÿs,” Modern Painters (March

otherwise indicated.

2007): 87. 15 Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Dandyism

bend “to the slipping of the sand.”

4 Jean-Louis Barrault, “The Rehearsal The

(1844), trans. Douglas Ainslie (New York:

25 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday

Performance” (1946), Yale French Studies 5

PAJ, 1988), 53, note. The dandy may not


(1950): 3.

be the first figure that comes to mind in connection with Alÿs, who is never overdressed.

26 Alÿs, in David Torres, “Francis Alÿs, simple

5 Alÿs, “Fragments of a Conversation in Bue-

But then as Barbey d’Aurevilly also wrote,

passant, Just Walking the Dog,” Art Press

nos Aires,” in Francis Alÿs: A Story of

“One may be a dandy in creased clothes….

(April 2001): 23.

Deception (Frankfurt: Revolver, 2006), 99.

Incredible though it may seem, the Dandies once had a fancy for torn clothes.” (31, note.)

27 De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life,

6 Alÿs, quoted by Corinne Diserns, “La Cour

Baudelaire is said to have scuffed up his suits


des Miracles,” in Francis Alÿs: Walking Dis-

lest they look too new. See Charles Baude-

tance from the Studio (Wolfsburg:

laire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other

Kunstmuseum, 2004), 139.

Essays, trans. and ed. Jonathan Mayne (New York: Da Capo, 1986), 27 n 2.

7 Alÿs, in Francis Alÿs: The Liar, the Copy of the 16 Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life”

Galería Ramis Barquet, 1994), 43.

(1863), in Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, 9.

8 In Alÿs, Diez cuadras alrededor del estudio/

following spreads: When Faith Moves Mountains, 2002 In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega 16mm film transferred to video 36 minutes

(London: Artangel, 2005), 24. 30 Alÿs, in “Shoulder to Shoulder: A Conversation between Gerardo Mosquera, Francis

17 Ibid.

City: Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, 2006), 26.

29 Alÿs, in James Lingwood and Alÿs, “Rumours,” in Alÿs, Seven Walks (2004–05)

Liar (Guadalajara: Arena; and Garza García:

Walking Distance From the Studio (Mexico

28 Alÿs, in Anton, “A Thousand Words,” 147.

Alÿs, Rafael Ortega and Cuauhtémoc Medina,” in Alÿs and Medina, When Faith

18 Pablo Vargas Lugo, in Alÿs, Diez cuadras

Moves Mountains, 68.

alrededor del estudio, 54. 9 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday

31 Alÿs, in Alÿs and Medina, When Faith

Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: Univer-

19 Alÿs, “Politics of Rehearsal,” in blueOrange

sity of California Press, 1984), 107.

2004: Francis Alÿs (Berlin: Martin-GropiusBau, 2004), 10.

10 Harry S. Truman, inaugural address, 20 January 1949, published in Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States (Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O., 1989).

20 Ibid.

Moves Mountains, 18. 32 Alÿs, in Anton, “A Thousand Words,” 147.


selected exhibition history and bibliography Born 1959, Antwerp, Belgium; lives in Mexico City

EDUCATION Institut d’Architecture, Tournai, Belgium, 1978–83 Istituto Universitario di Architettura, Venice, Italy, 1983–86



“Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political

“Walking Distance from the Studio,” Kunstmuseum,

and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become

Wolfsburg, Germany; traveled to Musée des Beaux-Arts,

Poetic,” David Zwirner, New York (exh. cat.)

Nantes, France; Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona,

“Francis Alÿs,” Museo de Arte, Lima

Spain (exh. cat.); and Museo de San Idelfonso, Mexico

City (exh. cat.)

2006 “A Story of Deception, Patagonia 2003–2006,” Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires (exh. cat.) “A Story of Deception,” Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany

“The Prophet,” Lambert Collection, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Avignon, France “BlueOrange 2004: Francis Alÿs,” Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (exh. cat.)

(exh. cat.) “The Sign Painting Project (1993–1997): A Revision,” Schaulager, Basel, Switzerland (exh. cat.) “Black Box: Francis Alÿs,” Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. “Diez cuadras alrededor del estudio,” Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City

2003 “Francis Alÿs: La obra pictória, 1992–2002,” Centro nazionale per le arti contemporanee, Rome; traveled to Kunsthaus, Zürich, Switzerland; and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (exh. cat.: Francis Alÿs: The Prophet and the Fly) “The Leak,” Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris

2005 “Francis Alÿs: (to be continued) 1992–,” Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand “Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic,” The Israel Museum, Jerusalem “Seven Walks,” Artangel and National Portrait Gallery, London (exh. cat.)

2002 “Francis Alÿs: The Modern Procession, Project 76,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York (exh. cat.) “Matrix.2,” Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy “Walking a Painting,” The Project, Los Angeles “When Faith Moves Mountains/Cuando la fe mueve montañas,” 3 Bienal Iberoamericana, Lima (exh. cat.)


126 2001



“Francis Alÿs,” Musée Picasso, Antibes, France (exh. cat.)

“Francis Alÿs,” Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

“The Eventual,” FRAC Bourgogne, Burgundy, France

“1-866-FREE-MATRIX,” Wadsworth Atheneum Museum

Jack Tilton Gallery, New York

“Mapping the City,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

of Art, Hartford, Connecticut

“Sisyphe,” Musée des Arts Contemporains Grand Hornu, Hornu, Belgium

“Dibujos animados,” Fundación ICO, Madrid


“L’attente,” Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Switzerland


“Commitment,” Cultural Center, Strombeek, Belgium

“Small Pictures,” The Cartin Collection, Hartford,

“Amores Perros vs. Camera in Collaboration with Alejandro

ACME, Santa Monica, California

“Doppelgänger,” Marco Museum, Vigo, Spain

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Oaxaca, Mexico

LII Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy (exh. cat.)

“The Counterfeit Subject” (with Yishai Judisman), Boulder

“Idylle,” National Gallery, Prague; traveled to Domus Artium

González Iñárritu,” Kunst-Werke, Berlin “Douglas Gordon. Francis Alÿs,” Lisson Gallery, London

Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, Colorado 2000

2002, Salamanca, Spain “Acquisitions of the Collection,” Tate Modern, London

“Francis Alÿs: The Last Clown,” Fundació “la Caixa”,


Barcelona, Spain (exh. cat.); traveled to Gallery at

Opus Operandi, Ghent, Belgium

University of Québec, Montréal, Canada; and Plug In

“El soplon,” Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo, Brazil

Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Canada (exh. cat.)

(exh. cat.) Jack Tilton Gallery, New York

“La era de la discrepancia,” Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte, Mexico City


“The Thief,” screensaver website project, Dia Center

“The Liar/The Copy of the Liar,” Galería Ramis Barquet,

for the Arts, New York “Standby,” Lisson Gallery, London

Monterrey, Mexico; traveled to Arena Mexico Arte Contemporáneo, Guadalajara, Mexico (exh. cat.)

“Drawings,” ACME, Los Angeles 1992

Mario Flecha Galeria, Girona, Spain

Galería Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City


“Le temps du sommeil,” Contemporary Art Gallery,

Salón des Aztecas, Mexico City

Vancouver, Canada; traveled to Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon

Performance,” New York “Rock: Daros Latin American Collection,” Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin “Goetz Meets Falckenberg: Works from the Goetz Collection and the Falckenberg Collection,” Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, Germany

to Potsdam, Germany “Snafu: Medien, Mythen, Mind Control,” Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany “Watch Out,” Beaumontpublic, Luxembourg contemporain, Luxembourg “Faces of a Collection,” Kunsthalle, Mannheim, Germany “Dark Places,” Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica,


The Netherlands “Performa 05: The First Biennial of New Visual Art


“Raconte-moi/Tell me,” Casino Luxembourg, Forum d’art

Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Switzerland

Connecticut “Monopolis–Antwerp,” Witte de With, Rotterdam,

“A Show of Prints,” James Kelly Contemporary, Santa Fe “Ideal City/Invisible Cities,” Zamosc, Poland; traveled


California “MODERN©ITE # II,” Le Grand Café, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Saint-Nazaire, France “Satellite of Love,” Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; traveled to TENT Center for Visual Arts, Rotterdam, The Netherlands “Die 90er,” Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, Germany “Tokyo Blossoms: Deutsche Bank Collection Meets Zaha Hadid,” Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo “Bin Beschaftigt,” Gesellschaft für aktuelle Kunst, Bremen, Germany “Version animée,” Centre pour l’image contemporaine, Geneva, Switzerland “Printemps de septembre 2006,” Les Abattoirs–Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse, France


“Early Work,” David Zwirner, New York “EindhovenIstanbul,” Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (exh. cat.) “Ecstasy: In and About Altered States,” The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (exh. cat.) “Strata: Difference and Repetition,” Fondazione Davide Halevim, Milan, Italy “War Is Over 1945–2005: The Freedom of Art from Picasso to Warhol and Cattelan,” Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bergamo, Italy (exh. cat.) “Crowd of the Person,” Contemporary Museum, Baltimore “Farsites: Urban Crisis and Domestic Symptoms in Recent Contemporary Art—inSite 2005,” San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego “General Ideas: Rethinking Conceptual Art 1987–2005,” CCA Wattis Institute of Contemporary Arts, San Francisco “Roaming Memories,” Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany “Here Comes the Sun,” Magasin 3, Stockholm Konsthall, Stockholm “Desenhos: A–Z,” Porta 33, Madeira, Portugal Glasgow International, Glasgow, Scotland “Irreducible: Contemporary Short Form Video,” Miami Art Central, Miami

128 “Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s ‘Fake Estates,’”

129 “Densité ± 0,” FRI-ART Centre d’Art Contemporain,

White Columns, New York, and Queens Museum of

Kunsthalle, Fribourg, Switzerland; traveled to Ecole

Art, Queens, New York (exh. cat.)

nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris

“Police,” Landesgalerie am Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, Linz, Austria “Point of View: A Contemporary Anthology of the Moving Image,” Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York “Theorema: Une collection privée en Italie, la collection d’Enea Righi,” Collection Lambert, Avignon, France “What’s New Pussycat?,” Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany “25: Twenty-Five Years of the Deutsche Bank Collection,” Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin (exh. cat.) “Realit;-)t,” Seedamm Kulturzentrum, Pfäffikon, Switzerland

“Point of View: An Anthology of the Moving Image,” New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles “Soziale Kreaturen: Wie Körper Kunst wird,” Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany

“Time Zones: Recent Film and Video,” Tate Modern, London “Dedicated to the Proposition,” Extra City, Center for Contemporary Art, Antwerp 2004 Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh “Who if not we should at least try to imagine the future of all this?,” BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, The Netherlands “Uses of the Image: Photography, Film and Video in the

de Paris, Paris “Moving Pictures: A Video Installation Survey,” Artcore/ Fabrice Marcolini, Toronto, Canada “Faces in the Crowd: Image of Modern Life from Manet to Today,” Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; traveled to Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy

“Collección de fotografia contemporánea,” Fundación

Telefónica, Madrid; traveled to Museo de Arte


Contemporánea, Vigo, Spain

“Outlook: International Art Exhibition Athens 2003,”

“Made in Mexico,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (exh. cat.) “Artist’s Choice: Mona Hatoum, Here Is Elsewhere,” MOMA QNS—The Museum of Modern Art, Long Island City,


“Elsewhere, here,” Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville

New York “Cordially Invited,” Centraal Museum, Utrecht, The Netherlands “O zero,” Officinal para Proyectos de Arte, Guadalajara, Mexico Triennale Poligráfica, San Juan, Puerto Rico “Gelegenheit und Reue” (with Rafael Ortega), Kunstverein, Graz, Austria “Los usos de la imagen: Fotografia, film y video en La

Arena–Society for the Advancement of Contemporary Art in Athens, Athens (exh. cat.) “Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video,” International Center of Photography, New York (exh. cat.) “Terror Chic,” Galerie Sprüth Magers, Munich, Germany “The Distance Between Me and You,” Lisson Gallery, London “Stretch: Artists from Canada, USA, Mexico, Cuba,

Experience,” Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati “In Light,” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

“On Reason and Emotion,” 14th Biennale, Sydney, Australia (exh. cat.) “20/20 Vision,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam “Communaute 1+2,” Institut d’art contemporain, Villeurbanne, France

“Inter.Play,” The Moore Building, Miami Shanghai Biennale 2002, Shanghai, China “Extra Art: A Survey of Artists’ Ephemera,” Institute of Contemporary Arts, London “Structures of Difference,” Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut “20 Million Mexicans Can’t Be Wrong,” South London Gallery, London; traveled to John Hansard Gallery, Southhampton, England “Mexico City: An Exhibition About the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values,” P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York; traveled to Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City

R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; traveled to Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain “fast forward: Media Art, Sammlung Goetz,” Zentrum für

LisboaPhoto, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon

Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, Germany;

de Art Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires (exh. cat.)

“Peter Kilchmann,” Vacio 9, Madrid

traveled to Centro Cultural Conde Duque and Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, Madrid (exh. cat.)

4th Bienal de Mercosur, Porto Alegre, Brazil


in Miami, Miami

Colección Jumex,” Fundación Telefónica and Museo

“Szenenwechsel,” Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt,

“Die zehn Gebote,” Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden,

“Mexico: Sensitive Negotiations,” The Institute of Mexico

“Imágenes en movimiento/Moving Pictures,” Solomon

26th São Paulo Bienal, São Paulo, Brazil

Beach, California

von Körpern und Werten,” Kunst-Werke, Berlin

Toronto, Canada “Somewhere Better Than This Place: Alternative Social

“Dimension Folly,” Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea,

“Hypermedia,” Orange County Museum of Art, Newport

“Mexico City: Eine Ausstellung über die Wechselkurse

“Multiplicity/Cuidad Multiple,” Panama City

Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires São Paulo, Brazil

Mexico City “Animation,” Kunst-Werke, Berlin

Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil,” The Power Plant,

Jumex Collection,” Colección Costantini, Museo de Arte “30 Años Galeria Luisa Strina,” Galeria Luisa Strina,

“el aire es azul/the air is blue,” Casa Museo Luis Barragán,

Trento, Italy “Gegen den Strich,” Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany “Communauté II,” Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France “Communauté,” Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, France “Treble,” Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York “Edén,” Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, Mexico City; traveled to Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogotá “Nouvelles Collections,” CentrePasquArt, Biel, Switzerland “Revolving Doors,” Fundación Telefonica, Madrid

Germany Bienal, Jafre, Spain “Multitudes–Solitudes,” Museion—Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy “The Labyrinthine Effect,” The Australian Center for Contemporary Art, Southbank, Australia “Art>Panama–Radical International Urban Art Event,” Panama City “Killing Time and Listening between the Lines,” La Colección Jumex, Mexico City

2002 “Hello There!,” Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Switzerland “Super Studio,” Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris “En Route,” Serpentine Gallery, London “Axis Mexico: Common Objects and Cosmopolitan Actions,” San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California The 8th Baltic Triennial of International Art, Vilnius “Sunday Afternoon,” 303 Gallery, New York “in aktion–performance heute,” Kunstverein, Hamburg, Germany

130 2001 “Videoserie in der Black Box: 6 Künstler–6 Positionen,” Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany

131 “Erste Arbeiten bei Kilchmann,” Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zürich, Switzerland “Making Time,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach;

“Unexpected Encounters,” Galleria Prisma, Bolzano, Italy

traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

“A Walk to the End of the World,” The Foksal Gallery

(exh. cat.)

Foundation, Warsaw “Höhere Wesen befahlen: Anders Malen!,” Smart Project Space, Amsterdam “Loop,” Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, Germany; traveled to P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York “The Big Show,” New International Cultural Center, Antwerp, Belgium (exh. cat.)

“Age of Influence: Reflections in the Mirror of American Culture,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago “Dream Machines,” Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, Scotland; traveled to Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield,

“Drawn By,” Metro Pictures, New York “Thinking Aloud,” Hayward Gallery, London

“Urban Hymns,” Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Gallery, California State University, Los Angeles

Mexico City

“Stimuli,” Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands “go away: Artists and Travel,” Royal College of Art Galleries, London “Rewriting the City,” Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York Mario Flecha Galeria, Girona, Spain “drawings,” ACME, Los Angeles

England; and Camden Arts Centre, London “Dirty Realism,” Robert Pearre Fine Art, Tucson

“Asi està la cosa,” Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo,

1996 “NowHere,” Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen (exh. cat.) “Latin American Contemporary Artists,” R. Barquet/ R. Miller, New York “Pittura,” Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy Galeria Froment & Putman, Paris

1998 “Roteiros,” XXIV Bienal, São Paulo, Brazil

“Interiors: Francis Alÿs, Kevin Appel, Robin Tewes,” Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles

“Insertions,” Arkipelag, Stockholm

7th International Biennial on the Run, Istanbul

“Out of Space,” Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany

“Loose Threads,” Serpentine Gallery, London


“God Is in the Details: Films et vidéos d’animation,” Centre

“9 Kean Street,” Lisson Gallery, London

1er Salon Internacional de Pintura, Museo de la Ciudad

“Longing and Belonging,” SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe

d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland “Looking at You: Kunst Provokation Unterhaltung Video,” Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany “Francis Alÿs/Rafael Ortega, Pierre Huyghe, Beat Streuli, and Gillian Wearing,” Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England “Squatters,” Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal; traveled to Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands “Black Box,” Kunstmuseum, Bern IL Biennale, Venice, Italy Galleria Prisma, Bolzano, Italy “Da Aversida de Vivemos, Lateinamerikanische Künstler,” Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris

“Latin America,” Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid “residue,” Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna

III Bienal Barro de America, Caracas

7th Biennial, Havana

“Imaginarios Mexicanos,” Musée de la civilisation,

“Fuori Uso 2000,” The Bridges, Pescara, Italy “Art 21/00,” Section Art Unlimited, Basel, Switzerland International Contemporary Art Biennial, Ekeby Qvarn Art Space, Uppsala, Sweden “Europe: Different Perspectives Painting,” Museo Michetti, Francavilla al Mare, Italy “Versiones del Sur,” Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid

“Cuentos patria (Multiplication of the Sheep),” Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany “Do You Have Time?,” LieberMagnan Gallery, New York “Painting at the Edge of the World,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis “Exploding Cinema/Cinema without Walls,” Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands “Drawings,” ACME, Los Angeles; traveled to sommercontemporaryart, Tel Aviv, Israel

San Francisco

Espace 251 Nord, Liege, Belgium 1994 Foodhouse, Santa Monica, California V Bienal, Havana Galeria OMR, Mexico City

“Situacionismo,” Fotoseptiembre, Galeria OMR, Mexico City “Play Mode,” Art Gallery, University of California, Irvine

1993 “Lesa Natura,” Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City

“Cinco continentes y una ciudad,” Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City

1992 “México Hoy,” Casa de las Américas, Madrid

Museo Regional, Guadalajara, Mexico

“Rueda como naturaleza,” Instituto Cultural Cabañas,

Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada; Castello


Espace L’Escaut, Brussels

di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy;

inSITE 97, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego,

“Mirror’s Edge,” BildMuseet, Umeå, Sweden; traveled to

Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland; and Carrillo Gil Museum, Mexico City “The passion and the wave,” 6th International Biennial, Istanbul Spain

“Tout le Temps/Every Time,” Biennale, Montréal, Canada

XLVIII Biennale, Venice, Italy

“Mixing Memory and Desire—Wunsch und Erinnerung,”

1st International Biennial, Melbourne, Australia

Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, Switzerland

Quebec City, Canada “Mexcellente,” Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,

“This Is My World…,” ACME, Santa Monica, California

Galeria Camargo Vilaça, São Paulo, Brazil 1999

“Reality and Desire,” Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona, 2000

de Mexico, Mexico City “Longitude de Onda,” M.A.O., Caracas

Guadalajara, Mexico

and Centro Cultural, Tijuana, Mexico


“Antechamber,” Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

Galería Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City

“Body Double,” Winston Wächter Gallery, New York

Blue Star Art Space, San Antonio

“Addenda,” Museum Dhont-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium

Latitude 53 Gallery, Edmonton, Canada

Primera Biennial Tridimensional, Mexico City 2nd Biennial, Saarema, Estonia

SOLO-EXHIBITION CATALOGUES & MONOGRAPHS BlueOrange 2004: Francis Alÿs. Berlin: Martin-Gropius-


The Liar, The Copy of the Liar. Monterrey, Mexico: Galería

Bau, 2004. Texts by Alÿs, Hubert Beck, Klaus Biesenbach,

Ramis Barquet; and Guadalajara, Mexico: Arena Mexico

Christopher Pleister, and Luminita Sabau.

Arte Contemporáneo, 1994. Text by Thomas McEvilley.

Francis Alÿs. Antibes, France: Musée Picasso Antibes, 2001. Francis Alÿs. Lima: Museo de Arte, 2007. Francis Alÿs. London: Phaidon, 2007. Texts by Alÿs, Russell Ferguson, Jean Fisher, Cuauhtémoc Medina, and Augusto Monterroso. Francis Alÿs: La obra pictoria, 1992–2002. Rome: Centro nazionale per le arti contemporanee, 2003. Francis Alÿs: Le temps du sommeil. Vancouver, Canada: Contemporary Art Gallery, 1998. Text by Kitty Scott. Francis Alÿs: The Last Clown. Barcelona, Spain: Fundació “la Caixa,” 2000. Text by David G. Torres. Francis Alÿs: The Last Clown. Montréal, Canada: Galerie de l’UQAM, 2000. Text by Michèle Thériault. Francis Alÿs: The Modern Procession. New York: Public Art Fund, 2004. Texts by Tom Eccles et al. Francis Alÿs: The Prophet and the Fly. Rome: Turner, 2003. Texts by Alÿs and Catherine Lampert. Francis Alÿs: Walking Distance from the Studio. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2005. Text by Annelie Lutgens et al. Francis Alÿs: Walks/Paseos. Mexico City: Museo de Arte Moderno, 1997. Texts by Alÿs, Bruce Ferguson, and Ivo Mequita.

Study for Déjà Vu, 2000 Oil and pencil on tracing paper 16 1 ⁄ 8 × 11 3 ⁄ 8 inches

Projects 76. Francis Alÿs: Modern Procession. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002. Seven Walks (2004–05). London: Artangel and National Portrait Gallery, 2005. Texts by Alÿs, Robert Harbison, James Lingwood, and David Toop. Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic. New York: David Zwirner, 2007. A Story of Deception / Patagonien 2003–2006. Frankfurt, Germany: Portikus and Revolver, 2006. A Story of Deception / Historia de un desengaño. Patagonia 2003–2006. Buenos Aires: Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, 2006. Texts by Alÿs, Eduardo F. Costantini, Olivier Debroise, and Marcelo E. Pacheco. Walking Distance from the Studio. Mexico City: Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso, 2006. Text by Cuauhtémoc Medina. When Faith Moves Mountains. Madrid: Turner, 2005. Texts by Susan Buck-Morss, Gustavo Buntinx, Lynne Cooke, Corinne Diserens, Cuauhtémoc Medina, and Gerardo Mosquera.



Art Works: Place. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005. Texts by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar. Carnegie International. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, 2004. Texts by Laura Hoptman et al. Cinema Without Walls. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: 30th International Rotterdam Film Festival, 2000. Ecstasy: In and About Altered States. Los Angeles:

Strangers: The First ICP Triennial of Photography and Video. New York: International Center for Photography; and Göttingen, Germany: Steidl Verlag. 2003. Texts by Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, et al. Tercera Bienal Iberoamericana de Lima. Lima: Municipalidad Metropolitana de Lima, 2002. Tokyo Blossoms: Deutsche Bank Collection Meets Zaha

ARTICLES AND REVIEWS Alberge, Dalya. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Peacock.” The Times (London), 6 June 2001, 1, 17. Alÿs. Francis. “The Loop.” Untitled, no. 16 (summer 1998): 4–7. ———. “The Modern Procession.” Artforum (September 2002): 44, 170–71. “Ambulantes.” Art Press, no. 306 (November 2004): 9.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2005. Texts by

Hadid. Frankfurt, Germany: Deutsche Bank Art, 2006.

“Antibes, Picasso Museum.” Printemps (summer 2001).

Paul Schimmel et al.

Texts by Ariane Grigoteit, Toshio Hara, Tessen von

Anton, Saul. “A Thousand Words: Francis Alÿs Talks About

Edén. Mexico City: La Colección Jumex, 2004. Edited by Patricia Martin. EindhovenIstanbul. Eindhoven, The Netherlands: Van Abbemuseum, 2005. Texts by Kerryn Greenberg and Eva Meyer-Hermann. Goetz Meets Falckenberg. Hamburg, Germany: Kulturstiftung Phoenix Art, 2005. Made in Mexico. Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 2004. Text by Gilbert Vicario. Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s “Fake Estates.”

Heydebreck, Christiane Meixner, Jonathan Napack,

When Faith Moves Mountains.” Artforum (summer 2002):

and Mark Rappolt.


25. Twenty-five Years of the Deutsche Bank Collection. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Deutsche Bank Art, 2005. Texts by Ariane Grigoteit et al. Los usos de la imagen: Fotografía, film y video en La Colección Jumex. Buenos Aires: Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, La Fundación/ Colección Jumex, and Espacio Fundación Telefónica, 2004. Texts by Carlos Basualdo et al.

New York: Cabinet Books; Queens, New York: Queens

WAR IS OVER: 1945–2005. The Freedom of Art from Picasso

Museum of Art; and New York: White Columns, 2005.

to Warhol and Cattelan. Milan, Italy: Silvana Editoriale;

Edited by Jeffrey Kastner, Sina Najafi, and Frances

and Bergamo, Italy: Galleria d’Arte Moderna, 2005.

Richard. Texts by Jeffrey A. Kroessler and Richard.

Edited by Giacinto Di Pietrantonio and M. Cristina

Other People’s Cities, Other People’s Work. São Paulo, Brazil: Galeria Camergo Vilaça, 1995. Text by Kurt Hollander. Parkett: 20 Years of Artists’ Collaborations. Zürich, Switzerland: Kunsthaus and Parkett Publishers, 2004. Text by Mirjam Varadinis.

Rodeschini Galati.

Anton, Saul. “One More Step.” Parkett, no. 69 (2003): 34–45. Aranda Marquez, Carlos. “Frequent Stops: Carrillo Gil Museum, Mexico City.” Flash Art 32, no. 208 (October 1999): 61. Arriola, Magali. “Francis Alÿs: The Liar and the Copy of the Liar.” ArtNexus, no. 28 (June 1998). ———. “Beaux Gestes.” Art Review 3, no. 10 (October– November 2005): 111–13. “Art: Performa05.” The New Yorker (14 November 2005): 22. “Auf Plateausohlen zur Menschheit.” Kunst-Bulletin, nos. 7–8 (September 2001): 12–17. Bail, Ralf. “Kurze Geschichte eines langen Schlafes.” KunstBulletin, no. 5 (May 2003): 34–37. Balcells, María José. “Reviews: Francis Alÿs: Museu d’Art Contemporani.” Flash Art (October 2005): 129. Basualdo, Carlos. “Head to Toes: Francis Alÿs’s Paths of Resistance.” Artforum (April 1999): 104–07. Becker, Christoph. “Veränderungen in der Sammlung: Schwestern treffen Bruder.” Kunsthaus Zürich Magasin, no. 4 (October 2004). Benitez Dueñas, Issa Maria. “Francis Alÿs: Hypotheses for a Walk.” ArtNexus, no. 35 (April–September 2000): 48–53. ———. “Francis Alÿs: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.” ArtNexus, no. 50 (July–September 2003): 135–36. Bergflodt, Torbjorn. “In Schraglage.” Südkurier, 22 April 2003, 10.


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The Liar/The Copy of the Liar, 1994 Studio view

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Study for Bolero, 1999–2007


This publication accompanies the exhibition “Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal,” organized by Russell Ferguson and presented at the Hammer...


This publication accompanies the exhibition “Francis Alÿs: Politics of Rehearsal,” organized by Russell Ferguson and presented at the Hammer...