A close look at the Mexico City-based artist's lyrical expansions of art into life.
In 1997 Belgian artist Francis Alys (b. 1959) created a performance work called 'The Loop for InSITE', a biennial group exhibition held in Tijuana, Mexico. Addressing the idea of international borders and the contemporary ease/unease of global travel, Alys' contribution was a journey that started in Tijuana and ended in the nearby border town of San Diego - never, however, crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. The artist instead took the long way, skirting the Pacific rim from Mexico to Panama, Sydney, Bangkok, Vancouver, Los Angeles and finally San Diego. The Loop took Alys one month and five days rather a few minutes - an absurd journey that called attention to Mexico and America's frought attitudes to their shared border. Combining humour, sensitivity and an extremely personal connection to the people and places where he works, Francis Alys often employs the basic human activity of walking to create performances, photo documentation, videos, slide projections and paintings.
The artist first came to international attention with a performance work called 'Narcotourism' ('NowHere', Lousiana Museum, 1996) in which he walked the city of Copenhagen over the course of seven days, each day under the influence of a different drug. Alys here underlined the wholly personal experience of artmaking, as well as the hyperreal and unnatural experience of contemporary tourism, reducing his travels to completely interiorized, personal 'trips'. A very independent artist belonging to no particular group, Alys' is a unique and truly international voice in today's global art world.
On the Contemporary Artists Series "The boldest, best executed, and most far-reaching publishing project devoted to contemporary art. These books will revolutionize the way contemporary art is presented and written about." - Artforum
"The combination of intelligent analysis, personal insight, useful facts and plentiful pictures is a superb format invaluable for specialists but also interesting for casual readers, it makes these books a must for the library of anyone who cares about contemporary art." - Time Out
"A unique series of informative monographs on individual artists." - The Sunday Times
"Gives the reader the impression of a personal encounter with the artists. Apart from the writing which is lucid and illuminating, it is undoubtedly the wealth of lavish illustrations which makes looking at these books a satisfying entertainment." - The Art Book
Critic and curator Russell Ferguson travels to Mexico City to walk the streets with the artist, discussing Alys's personal and artistic explorations along the way.
Survey - Cuauhtemoc Medina traces Alys's ongoing critique of urbanism and modern life from his studies at the architecture academy in Venice to his negotations with day-to-day life in Mexico City and finally to his emergence as an acclaimed artist of international scope.
Focus - Jean Fisher discusses When Faith Moves Mountains (2002), a 'project of geological displacement' whereby some 500 volunteers moved an enormous sand dune a few inches from its original position, one shovel-full at a time.
Artist's Choice - Augusto Monterroso's 'The Black Sheep' and 'The Two Tails, or the Eclectic Philosopher' (1969) are fables whose instant timelessness have made them classics throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
Artist's Writings - Alys discusses his own practices in texts which such evocative titles as 'As Long as I'm Walking', '10 Predicaments' and 'The Elements'.
Chronology and Bibliography
Series: Contemporary Artists
For Grades: 8+
Number Of Pages: 160
Published: 1st May 2007
Publisher: Phaidon Press Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 29.0 x 25.0
Weight (kg): 1.03
Edition Number: 1