london days

I’m in london for a few days before some exciting times at ISEA2010 and ars electronica.

Francis Alÿs – A Story of Deception, Tate Modern

I found this title a strange one, considering Alys ongoing concern with action, movement, borders and points of intersection. More than ‘deception’, he acknowledges the ‘myth’ in all art.

Despite this small bug bear, the show itself was fabulous.  If you’re in London and you haven’t see this work, you really should, Alÿs is an artist whose work on the concept of territory/lines of division is incredibly important.

Paradox of Praxis I. Video documentation of Alÿs encircling the centre of Mexico City pushing a block of ice around until it melt. It is the most common image of his work (and one that is also at the deception and procedure exhibition), but it’s still a great image, important in terms of his modus operandi and his ongoing idea of ‘sometimes doing nothing leads to something‘ – the subtitle of the work.

Patriotic tales with Rafael Ortega.
A fixed-frame video document of an action in a public square around a pole (with a very sharp shadow that divides the space well) in which a man leads a single and increasing flock of sheep. Of course i couldn’t help but think about artist lucas ihlein‘s Goat Walks for the West Brunswick Sculpture triennial. so the highlight was also kind of for him too.

The green line
Another seminal work of his, but it also feels like one of the most important works I’ve seen. ever. I am trying to not overstate it, but I think it is the work of our time.

Based on the 1949 partition, where Israeli moshe dayan took a green pencil and the British Mandate a red pencil and drew out their front lines on a 1:20,000 map of jerusalem. But what did that mean, in real terms?
Francis alÿs walked across that armistice area, with a tin of green paint with a hole in its lid, demarcating a border that divided Israeli and Palestinian alike in loaded visual terms.

The video is still poignant and the associated documents are quite profound. His investment of poetic action into such a highly political situation is its true value and the work’s subtitle: sometimes doing something poetic can become political. sometimes doing something political can become poetic, is an even more inspiring maxim that continues from sometimes doing nothing…

Paintings: abukir and an unknown painting of a puddle.
Alÿs’ small paintings are beautiful objects, which extend his actions/investigations. these two in particular stuck with my all afternoon and both look at ‘the line’ from two completely different perspectives. They illustrate the difference between old ideas of site and the concept of ‘situation’. Abukir shows a hillside town divided by a wall. The hard, static wall defines a site with such rigity – there is no place for fluidity, greyness, ambiguity or flexibility in such a place. It is fixed.

I couldn’t find the name of this painting and all the images from the Tate online collection have been removed, but is my second favourite work of the show. It is so unassuming, but I think it really highlights the ideas and the ethos of the artist perfectly.

It is a painting of two objects: a chest of drawers (marked A) and a bucket on its side (marked B), from which a puddle of water has spilt (marked C). the water floods between both objects and their reflections not only appear, but overlap in the water. The water blurs the line between where the edge of one object ends and another begins – it dissolves the structural edge and creates a space in which both objects are included, despite being ‘separated’. Separateness and territory are ideas that become murky and underrated, possibly.

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