‘Maybe you don’t need to see the work, you just need to hear about it.’
Francis Alÿs in conversation with James Lingwood, 2005
The participants of de Appel Curatorial Programme ’09/’10 present the exhibition “I'm Not Here. An Exhibition Without Francis Alÿs”. The title is inspired by “I’m Not There” (2007) a biographical film directed by Todd Haynes about the iconic American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Six actors depict different facets of Dylan's life and his public persona while Dylan himself is absent from the film. In reference to this, “I’m Not Here. An Exhibition Without Francis Alÿs” is a solo exhibition that takes the form of a group exhibition in which works by the contributing artists evoke the atmosphere of the work of an absent Francis Alÿs.
As a Belgian artist who moved to Mexico City in 1986, Alÿs makes specific use of ‘rumors’ and ‘hearsay’, oral history, witness reports and memories to distribute his actions after they have taken place. We as curators believe that one can engage with Alÿs’ work without having seen it. In order to radicalize this conviction, we have decided to withhold his works from our exhibition. By shifting the spotlight from a well-established artist such as Alÿs to other artistic practices, the exhibition redistributes agency to all of the participating artists and engender a critical interrogation of the format of a solo retrospective. Through an encounter with the artworks in the exhibition, “I’m Not Here. An Exhibition Without Francis Alÿs” invites the audience to think about Alÿs and challenge the privileging of presence over absence.