Francis Alÿs will present new paintings and a video created in Mosul in the exhibition Archaic in the Iraqi National Pavilion.
In 2016, Alÿs travelled to northern Iraq on the invitation of the Ruya Foundation, an organization founded in 2012 with the aim of aiding and enriching culture in Iraq. Alÿs spent nine days on the frontline in Mosul with the Kurdish Army, or Peshmerga, an experience which continued his exploration of the role of the artist in situations of conflict. He wrote about the experience for Artforum:
"There is something peculiar about the times we live in, and with them, a different expectation of the artist's role. When the structure of a society collapses, when politicians and media have lost credit and terror invades daily life, society turns toward culture in pursuit of answers. The painter is expected to look at its reality without any filters…Yet, is the artist able to assume those roles from a moral, intellectual, and emotional point of view?"
Read more: a featued interview with the artist in Artsy about the Mosul project. A conversation with the Iraqi Pavilion curators Tamara Chalabi (co-foundation of the Ruya Foundation) and Paolo Colombo in ArtReview.
Image: Untitled, Mosul (selfie), 2016. Pencil and photo on canvas, 5 x 6 inches (12.7 x 15.2 cm)
A Story of Negotiation presented significant projects from the last two decades by Francis Alÿs, and travelled from the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
The exhibition centered around three large-scale video works which reflect Alÿs's distinct sensibility towards anthropological and geopolitical concerns. Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River (2008) documents an event in which local children stood in the sea at either shore of the Strait of Gibraltar holding boats made from shoes; the aim was to create the illusion of a bridge on the horizon. In Tornado (2000-2010), Alÿs chases dust-devils in the Mexican outback. REEL-UNREEL (2011) depicts a street game played by children in Kabul who follow a reel of film as it unravels through the old part of town.
"As ambitious as it is charming, this grand exhibition of Alÿs's oeuvre allows the audience to witness a brilliant conjugation of the sociopolitical language that is applied throughout his career." — Aesthetica Magazine