Francis Alÿs (born 1959) charges into a tornado kicking up swirls of dust with a hand-held camera. He pushes a huge block of ice around the streets of Mexico City from morning till night until it melts. Though seemingly reckless and absurd, Alÿs presents each of these actions as an allegory of the society in which we live, and in doing so elucidates facets of reality that cannot be overlooked.
Alÿs wanders around the city to uncover issues that inhere in our daily lives. Currently residing in Mexico, he has conducted a range of projects around the world that point to these issues in real life contexts, from actions performed on city streets to large-scale projects that involve several hundred participants. These actions are documented in the form of videos and photographs, presented as enticing narrative paintings, drawings, and sometimes postcards, among other forms of expression.
Many of Alÿs' works explore the societal and political issues of his immediate environment: Mexico; but his humorous and poetic delivery of such site-specific issues engage many viewers regardless, which explains why he is recognized internationally.
The exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, reviews Alÿs' oeuvre from his earliest works to his most recent works, through two stages. The first stage will provide an overview of his artistic activity, introducing approximately fifteen projects that were held in Mexico, mainly through videos and also through photographs, paintings and sculptures. The second stage will focus on his new, large-scale project held in the Strait of Gibraltar, Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River. This section will include a total of approximately one hundred pieces, ranging from documentary footage, paintings, drawings, installation, sculptures and photographs.
As our society faces a pivotal moment of change, the role of art in society is once again being questioned and challenged. Francis Alÿs' approach of making artistic interventions in reality by translating social issues into narratives filled with allegory will provide an opportunity to explore anew the potential of art in confronting the real world.