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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


Francis Alys: The Green Line:‘Sometimes doing something poetic can become political, and sometimes doing something political can become poetic’ (2004)

In this work the artist walks the Green Line through Jerusalem, a temporary cease-fire boundary created initially by the UN after the Arab-Israeli war of 1947–48 but redrawn by the Israeli authorities in 2004 as a more permanent barrier that incorporates gains made at the expense of Jordan after the Six Day war in 1967.

The line has no legality and offends against Alÿs’ belief in a world without borders. In original UN maps the demarcation line was marked in green ink. In the work, Alÿs carries a tin of green paint, with a hole in the bottom, through the streets of Jerusalem. He dribbles paint along the division between Arab and Jew, a symbolic act, an act of petty vandalism inviting an (over)reaction from the israeli authorities, a gesture, a joke. It is an action painting, both poetic and political, an ephemeral work which, like the boundary it follows, will dissolve with time.

There is more, much more, to Alÿs’ show but walking as a form of aesthetic and socio-political intervention is a large part of it and he shares his belief in the use of humour and the theatre of the absurd as a means of focussing attention on issues that might otherwise go unnoticed because of their familiarity, their normality. via art threat

Shortly after this walk, a filmed documentation of the walk was presented to a number of people whom he invited to react spontaneously to the action and the circumstances within which it was performed.

*I’ve blogged this work many time before, but Francis Alys has posted all the amazing video interviews from this piece on his website. Unfortunately they can not be embedded in tumblr, but Eyal Weizman’s is particularly good and it’s worth leaving tumblr for!

The interviews include: 

Rima Hamami
Jerusalem - Anthropologist

Albert Agazarian
Jerusalem – Historian

Yael Dayan
Tel Aviv - Member of Knesset

Jean Fisher
London - Art Historian

Ruben Aberjil
Jerusalem - Activist

Amira Hass
Ramallah - Journalist

Nazmi Jobeh
Jerusalem – Architect

Eyal Sivan
Tel Aviv and Paris - Filmmaker

Eyal Weizman
Tel Aviv and London - Architect

Michel Warschawski
Jerusalem - Activist

**see one video below:

Francis Alys: The Green Line: Interview with Rima Hamami (part 1 of 11 interviews). from leslie on Vimeo.