Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game
Text by David MacDougall
The Belgian artist Francis Alÿs (b. Antwerp, 1959) makes work that is as multifaceted as it is poetically subversive. Straddling the line between performative conceptual art and community intervention, his films and drawings chart the political and social realities of urban spaces. One of his most imposing long-term projects is Children’s Games, for which he documents children playing all over the world, from Paris and Mexico City to the Yezidi refugee camp Sharya in Iraq. The richly illustrated book contains ideas and sketches he compiled in preparation for this series. It lets us glimpse into the engine room of his artistic practice, revealing key elements of his filmic poetics. An essay by the ethnographer and filmmaker David MacDougall embeds Alÿs’s observations of children’s play in the contexts of childhood studies as well as the history of ethnographic documentary film.
Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game is the official publication of the Belgian pavilion at the 59th Biennale di Venezia, curated by Hilde Teerlinck.
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Artists: Francis Alÿs
Designer: Cristina Paoli · Periferia
Publication Date: 2022
Dimensions: 7.25 x 4.5 in | 18.5 x 11.5 cm
Pages: 208 pages
Reproductions: 90 illustrations
Francis Alÿs’s art is centered around observations of, and engagements with, everyday life. His multifaceted projects include public actions, installations, videos, paintings, and drawings; the artist himself has described his work as “a sort of discursive argument composed of episodes, metaphors, or parables.” Across these different media, Alÿs presents his distinct poetic and imaginative sensibility towards anthropological and political concerns. His actions have involved traveling the longest possible route between locations in Mexico and the United States to highlight the increasing obstacles imposed along the border; pushing a melting block of ice through city streets; commissioning sign painters to copy his paintings; filming his efforts to enter the center of a tornado; carrying a leaking can of paint along the contested Israel/Palestine border; and equipping hundreds of volunteers to move a colossal sand dune ten centimeters.