October 11, 2014 - Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle - Francis Alÿs
October 11, 2014

Francis Alÿs

Francis Alÿs, REEL-UNREEL (still), 2011. Film, Kabul, Afghanistan, with Julien Devaux, Ajmal Maiwandi. Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London.

Francis Alÿs
(Afghan Projects, 2010–2014)

11 October 2014–11 January 2015

Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle 
2 Jazdów Street 
00-467 Warsaw 


Curator: Ewa Gorządek
In collaboration with Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina-MADRE in Naples.

The exhibition REEL-UNREEL (Afghan Projects, 2010-14) is the first individual presentation of work from artist Francis Alÿs (born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium) in Poland. The exhibition focuses on the artist’s most recent work, which was realized ​​during his multiple visits to Afghanistan. The titled video work REEL-UNREEL will be shown alongside an extensive selection of paintings, drawings, collages, sketches, documents and ephemeral objects all comprising Afghan Projects. They form a kind of archive similar to a journal you would keep when traveling. Being shown in conjunction to the two earlier works, are some of the artist’s most iconic works: Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing) and Green Line, in which Francis Alӱs enters into a dialogue with the modernist tradition of the medium of sculpture and painting.

REEL-UNREEL, a film produced by Francis Alӱs in 2011 under dOCUMENTA (13) jointly with Ajmal Maiwandi and Julien Devaux, is the exhibition’s main work, and is coincidingly the artist’s tribute to analog film. On the one hand, the title refers to the narrative presented in it, and on the other hand, to the phenomenon that the medium of film itself is, with reeling and coiling the tape on a projector. Considering the title, Alӱs uses a kind of play on words in it: reel/real and unreel/unreal, to emphasize a far from reality picture that the Western media created about contemporary Afghanistan.

The film’s main characters are Kabul and its inhabitants, portraying two kameez-clad children playing on the streets, unrolling a reel of 35mm film from a red spool along the dusty ground. The idea to build the narrative of REEL-UNREEL around a popular kids game, based on rolling a tyre with a stick, is already a part of Alӱs’s long-term interest in children’s games, which he constantly documents on video. As is typical of Alӱs, this work can be interpreted in many ways. The surface of celluloid tape and analog material, in a literal way, registers the physicality Kabul, its dusty outskirts, bazaars busy with traffic and crowded old town. Aside the apparent presence of the army and security services, Alӱs’s film offers us a different, optimistic in pronunciation, picture of life in the city. The act of winding and changing rolls of tape brings to mind the work of a projector, which turns Kabul into a film set. 

The Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle and Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina-MADRE in Naples are co-producing a monographic catalogue that will include essays by Francis Alÿs, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Ewa Gorządek, Ajmal Maiwandi, Michael Taussig, Robert Slifkin and testimonies by Mario Garcia Torres, Mariam Ghani, Amanullah Mojadidi, and Andrea Viliani.

Francis Alÿs is an author of formally diversified works—from installations to video works, paintings, drawings, objects, as well as photography. He is one of the most important contemporary artists, widely known throughout the world for his performative actions documented on video, penetrating into the social and political models of urban environments. The artist employs non-traditional creative methods to create his works; this includes obsessively walking around the city, by which he is able to individualize the notion of public space, or revealing the tension between that which is political and that which is poetic. Francis Alÿs uses the medium of performance to interpret the complex relationship between political, social, and cultural matters in contemporary society.

Francis Alÿs was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1959. He has been living and working in Mexico City since 1986. A retrospective exhibition of the artist (Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception) was organized between 2010 and 2011 by Tate Modern, London; WIELS Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels; The Museum of Modern Art, New York and MoMA PS1, New York. 


Francis Alÿs at Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle
Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle
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