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[Text published in the catalog of SB11]
The Strait of Gibraltar
is 7.7 nautical miles wide (13 km)
and separates Africa from Europe.
If a line of kids
leaves Europe towards Morocco,
and a line of kids
leaves Africa towards Spain,
will the 2 lines meet
in the chimera of the horizon?
I. The context: the Strait of Gibraltar
II. The cause of the conflict: the sea separating Africa and Europe
III. The protagonists: Moroccan and Spanish kids
IV. The means to cheat destiny: the boats made of shoes
V. The conflict: the battle with the sea
VI. The response to the conflict: the bridge
VII. The imaginary: the crossing, the meeting
VIII. The loop: the strait with Moroccan and Spanish kids looking at the sea
The early period of a project, the moment when you start playing with an idea, when you're imagining how to make it real, that's the most exciting moment of the project, the stage where everything is still possible. When you launch into the production, with all its financial and technical contingencies, you start feeling the first limits on your idea. When you're filming, you stick to the idea as much as you can, but inevitably you start messing it up and compromising. Next, you find yourself in an editing studio trying to rescue the essence of the idea, but you know that the film will never meet your original expectations.
The Gibraltar project is peculiar: a place was chosen, a plot was written, an event took place in real time with real people and cameras recorded an imaginary meeting. But only now am I starting to touch the heart of the problem:
What am I trying to say?
Where does it lead?
Who are my interlocutors?
What was the idea?
How much can I abstract myself from the reality of a situation?
How far can I push this kind of utopian projection?
Am I abusing my resort to poetic licence?
Who really wants to believe in the possibility of change?
Who wants a bridge?
There is a story but no happy ending. There is a fable but no moral. All I have is a mise en situation.
* 1959 Antwerp, Belgium. Lives in Mexico City, Mexico.
1986 Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, Italy
1983 Institut d'Architecture de Tournai, Belgium
Urban strolls play a central role in Francis Alys's practice, as seen in the video The Collector, 1991-92, in which the artist pulls a magnetic toy through the streets of Mexico City until it is covered in metal debris. In Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing), 1997, he pushes a block of ice through the city. Other actions have included commissioning sign painters to copy his paintings; carrying a leaking can of paint along the contested Israel/Palestine border; and hiring five hundred volunteers to move a 500-metre-long sand dune a few centimeters.
He was the subject of a major survey, Francis Alys: A Story of Deception, on view from 2010 to 2011 at Tate Modern, London, UK; Wiels Centre for Contemporary Art, Brussels, Belgium; and the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, New York, USA. He has also had solo exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2010); Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA (2008); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California, USA (2007); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, USA (2006); and Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (2006), among other venues.
Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River, 2008
Videos, paintings, drawings, sculpture and photographic installation. In collaboration with Julien Devaux, Rafael Ortega, Felix Blume, Ivan Bocara, Jimena Blasquez, Roberto Rubalcava, Begoña Rey, Abbas Benhnin and the kids of Tarifa and Tangier.
Presented at Sharjah Biennial 11
13 March - 13 May 2013
United Arab Emirates