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.

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 Alÿs
Francis Alÿs (Belgian, born 1959). Cuentos Patrióticos. 1997. Video (black and white, sound), 24:40 min. Courtesy David Zwirner Gallery, New York. © 2011 Francis Alÿs

Entering “A Story of Deception,” one is greeted by the sound of church bells, an integral element of Cuentos Patrioticos, a video of a man leading a line of sheep in a circle around a square. This piece references a 1968 protest where civil servants bleated like sheep in objection to government treatment.