I made a trip down to London especially to see the exhibition, Francis Alys: A Story of Deception, at Tate Modern.
Having trained as an architect, he addresses the built environment and the uses of public space, turning cities into fields of investigation and then utilising them as the raw material for his interventions. He seems to have a wonderful ability to notice the most mundane of intricacies such as bottle tops embedded in tarmac or chewing gum left under a table, and then he utilises these humble observation to engage with weighty ideas. I clearly share his passion for drawing people’s attention to the everyday details that go unnoticed and some of his works have a particular resonance with the ideas behind my practice.
Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Felipe Sanabria, The Collector (Colector) Mexico City, 1990-2, Private collection © Francis Alÿs Photo: Ian Dryden.
Francis Alÿs, Ambulantes I and II Mexico City, 1992-Present, Private collection © Francis Alÿs.
For example in Placing Pillows, he placed pillows in broken windows to draw attention to the failure of civic authorities to repair these damaged buildings in the aftermath of the 1985 earthquake. And his interest in the civic authorities runs deeper as can be seen in such works as The Collector, which celebrates the widespread resistance that exists in Mexico to modernisation, and in Ambulantes, where he documents street situations and characters that attest to a lifestyle in defiance of the pressures of modernity. In the same way that I intend my work to question the necessity for the continual renewal of our cities, his work appears to speak out against modernity and its restricting rationality that has prevailed in an attempt to control nascent urban life, and project in its place a model of city planning.