Francis Alys, A Story of Deception

Francis Alys, A Story of Deception

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels

Francis Alÿs, “The Green Line,” 2004.
Video documentation of an action.
Photo by Julien Devaux.
© Francis Alÿs.

October 15, 2010

Francis Alÿs
A Story of Deception

9 October 2010 – 30 January 2011

8 October 2010, 18:30-21:00

Avenue Van Volxemlaan 354
1190 Brussels

WIELS presents a major survey exhibition of Francis Alÿs (b. 1959 Belgium), one of contemporary art’s most influential figures. The retrospective will present pictorial works alongside a number of new pieces, which have never been shown before. No less than 18 films documenting the artist’s actions are featured in the show, ranging from tragicomic failures to poetic observations and other works, which metaphorically address current issues. Paintings, drawings, installations and material drawn from a dozen other works complete the retrospective, which will allow visitors to follow the successive stages in the development of Alÿs’ oeuvre and which have led him to become one of the most important artists of his generation.

As the title of the exhibition hints, Alÿs questions our reason for being and the utility of things and actions, as well as the way we observe them and give form to them: for deception can be understood as artifice, hallucination, or disillusion. For Alÿs, there is only a fine line between relevance and inutility and he often plays with the illusions that prop up certain ideas, symbols or acts. His work often starts with a simple act, performed either by him or by others, which is documented in any wide number of media, without ever really necessarily coming to a final conclusion. Working in urban settings or in dramatic landscapes, he creates fable-like interventions, which frequently address a historical or political concern attached to a specific site.

Alÿs moved to Mexico City in the mid 1980s at a time of political unrest. He started taking photographs of sleeping stray dogs or street vendors, as metaphors for the ingenuity of daily life in a metropolis. In Turista (1994), he advertised himself with a cardboard sign reading “tourist”, among unemployed workers offering their services.

In Paradox of Praxis 1 (1997) Alÿs pushed a block of ice around Mexico City until it melted completely. The work stood as an allegory about failed modernisation strategies initiated by Mexico and other Latin American countries. More generally speaking, it is a dramatic metaphor, an illustration of the idea of applying a maximum of effort for a minimum of results.

Alongside video and film installations, the exhibition will include Francis Alÿs’s dream-like paintings Le Temps du Sommeil (1996-present) in which visitors can discover the artist’s repertoire of actions and principles. Additional paintings revealing the artist’s recent evolution, as well as objects made in collaboration with various workers in Mexico, will also be featured. The exhibition will end with the powerful video Tornado (2000-10), presented for the first time.

Francis Alÿs was born in Belgium in 1959. His work has been included in numerous international biennials including São Paulo (1998, 2005), Istanbul (1999, 2001) and Venice (1999, 2001, 2007). He has had solo exhibitions at major international institutions including the Musée Picasso d’Antibes, Whitechapel in London, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, MACBA in Barcelona, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes and the UCLA Hammer.

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception is organized by WIELS where it is curated by Dirk Snauwaert, in collaboration with Tate Modern where it was curated by Mark Godfrey, Curator, Tate Modern and Kerryn Greenberg, Assistant Curator, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York where it will be curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Cara Starke.

The French and Dutch editions of the catalogue including texts by Mark Godfrey, Klaus Biesenbach, Cara Starke, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Eduardo Abaroa, Tom McDonough, Eyal Weizman, T.J. Demos, Miwon Kwon, Francesco Careri, Carla Faesler, Laymert Garcia dos Santos, Boris Groys and Lorna Scott Fox was published by Wiels in collaboration with Lannoo.

The exhibition is sponsored by SOCIETE GENERALE Private Banking and receives the special support of Eugenio Lopez Collection Jumex

Avenue Van Volxemlaan 354
1190 Brussels
T +32 (0)2 340 00 50
Wed – Sun, 11:00 – 18:00
NOCTURNE, Every 1st & 3rd Wed of the month 11:00 – 21:00
Mon – Tue, closed

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October 15, 2010

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