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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception at Tate Modern: A Review

A multimedia exhibition that explores the role of the artist as political commentator.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern La Ronde
La Ronde by Francis Alÿs

Last week Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception opened at the Tate Modern. In the first room we are faced with the artwork that inspired the exhibition’s name: a film of a flickering mirage in the Patagonian desert. Water appears to flood across a dusty highway… vanishing into the distance in a hypnotising shimmer. Originally from Belgium, visit this Alÿs has been a resident of Mexico City since the mid 1980s, treatment although his work often explores the politics of a worldwide diaspora. Each room encapsulates a particular project, often showcasing the original source material, such as news clippings, and the tiny but beautifully formed oil paintings that Alÿs produces alongside films and other ephemera.

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 newsclippings
news clippings collected by Francis Alÿs.

Life in teeming Mexico City has provided rich material to plunder – especially in the constant walking walking walking of the city’s street vendors, echoed in the delicate collages displayed in a light box – and the casual violence which Alÿs imitates by carrying his own gun on prominent display through the streets (in Re-enactments) until he is arrested.

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 ambulantes
 Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 ambulantes
collaged images by Francis Alÿs, featuring ambulantes.

Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing) is one of the most famous pieces created by Alÿs. In it Alÿs pushes a block of ice around the streets until it is completely melted. Constant movement is a constant theme: whether kicking a can endlessly around the streets (a performance that ended when the absorbed Alÿs stepped in front of a car) leading sheep in a circle or pouring green paint out of a can to retrace the armistice border between Israel and Jordan.

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 Paradox of Praxis
Still from Paradox of Praxis by Francis Alÿs.
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010
Still from The Loop by Francis Alÿs.
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 The Green Line
Still from The Green Line by Francis Alÿs.

Through all his methods of creation Alÿs never reaches a single point of resolution, an idea which is explored in the Rehearsal series, wherein a Beetle car is driven up a hill to the tune of a brass band, rolling backwards every time the music reaches a pause, much like Latin American modernisation, which always seems to find some reason for delay.

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern Rehearsal
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern Rehearsal
Stills from Rehearsal by Francis Alÿs.

Alÿs questions the role of the artist in the political, transforming everyday objects into new roles. Half way through the exhibition the floor of a room is covered with rubber car mats decorated with a pop art graphic of a silenced mouth, and Camguns are created out of scrap wood, metal and film canisters. Since 2000 Alÿs has been throwing himself into the eye of the tornadoes that he chases through the countryside, seeing in these natural phenomena an echo of political chaos. If peace is found in the centre will it be possible for change?

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 Silencio
Silencio by Francis Alÿs.
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 Camguns
Camguns by Francis Alÿs.

Some of the newest work by Alÿs revolves around the concept of the tornado, implosions and explosions – a work in progress which is presented complete with post it notes on a wall in the last room. Some of the beautiful oils in this collection echo the delicate work of ongoing series Le Temps du Sommeil, which features 111 miniature oil paintings on recycled wood that feature dreamlike scenes reminiscent of the actions that crop up time and again in his other work. Not only does Alÿs enjoy the privacy of working in a traditional medium, he also uses the money from the sales of such paintings to finance his larger and less houseworthy projects.

Francis Alÿs Tate Modern Tornado
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 Le Temps du Sommeil
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 Le Temps du Sommeil
Francis Alÿs Tate Modern 2010 Le Temps du Sommeil
Details from Le Temps du Sommeil by Francis Alÿs.

Worth it to see these paintings alone, this is a must see exhibition for anyone with an interest in how multimedia can be to used to effectively tackle difficult political subjects. It runs until 5th September 2010.

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