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Episode 1 is live! Join hosts Sarah Urist Green and John Green as they meet artists Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins and follow them as they Meet in the Middle. Then it’s your turn! Do the assignment, post your results to the social media platform of your choice, and tag it with #theartassignment. Your work may be included in a future episode. (Get started by calculating the midpoint between you and a friend. Or an enemy.) 

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Francis Alÿs - When Faith Moves Mountains

For his 2002 “When faith moves mountains” he literally transformed a common figure of speech into an action piece. In the mountains just outside Lima, Peru, Alÿs asked 500 volunteers to walk in a line and use a shovel to move the sand dune 10 centimeters from its original position. The work might be considered a social commentary on the shifting of the country from Fujimori’s dictatorship to democracy and a deeper questioning about the effective role of mass movements of people in causing such shiftings. Furthermore it might be seen as a cynical reading of the artist on the act of “believing” and the absurdity it entails: the effort sustained by the volunteers only produces a small change, which is invisible and unmesurable.

“Every year since 2001 Alÿs, at the highpoint of the dry season in March, drives his car to the southeast edge of Mexico City where smoky clouds rise from cornfields burning after the harvest, and grey swirls of ash and sand loom on the horizon. He carries his video camera and runs toward the tornadoes hoping to catch them as a surfer catches a wave. His nose and mouth are protected only by a handkerchief. Once he reaches one, he runs into the eye of the storm and stays as long as possible. This is an absurd act but he tries to forge a moment of bliss in the midst of chaos.” —Un-marked source

(The perfect allegory for life.)

“Walking, in particular drifting, or strolling is already–within the speed of culture of our time–a kind of resistence. But it also happens to be a very immediate method for unfolding stories. It’s an easy, cheap act to perform.”

-Francis Alys