Francis Alys to Represent Belgium at the 59th Venice Biennale | David Zwirner
A still from a film by Stan Douglas, titled Children’s Game #23: Step on a Crack, dated 2020.

Francis Alÿs to Represent Belgium at the 59th Venice Biennale

The artist will present "The Nature of the Game"

It has been announced that Francis Alÿs will represent Belgium at the Venice Biennale in 2022. In collaboration with the curator Hilde Teerlinck, the artist will develop an exhibition project for the Belgian Pavilion.

Alÿs will present The Nature of the Game, an exhibition featuring a selection of films and a series of paintings. Almost all of the films will be new productions.

Since 1999, during his many travels, Alÿs’ camera has captured children playing in public spaces. It started coincidentally with the video Children’s Game #1: Caracoles, showing a young boy kicking a bottle up a steep street, only to let it roll back to him and then kicking it up again.

A still from a film by Stan Douglas, titled Children’s Game #27: Rubi, dated 2021.
Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #27: Rubi, Tabacongo, DR Congo, 2021 (still)
Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #27: Rubi, Tabacongo, DR Congo, 2021 (still)

Playing is something natural, something that we discover and learn instinctively in our childhood. Like eating and sleeping, playing is an essential human need. It is necessary to take time, to spend time and to lose time in playing. Children’s play is to be understood as a creative relationship with the world in which they are living, revealing a socio-political dimension.

Observing, investigating and documenting human behaviour in urban life is a constant in Alÿs’ work. His films record (in an ethnographical way) both the power of cultural tradition and the relaxed, free and autonomous attitudes of children, even in the most conflicted of situations. The children’s games play an important role in these explorations and have gained a more central position in his practice: Alÿs uses his camera as a way to try to understand the culture and the patterns by which people live.

An untitled painting by Francis Alÿs of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, dated 2010.
Francis Alÿs, Untitled, Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2010 (detail)
Francis Alÿs, Untitled, Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2010 (detail)

As anthropologist David MacDougall said, “Taken together, these films reveal some wider truths: that many children’s games are specific to girls or boys, that most are competitive but also cooperative, and that children are adept at making do with little, adapting a wide range of environments and spaces for their own purposes. In this they create a world parallel to that of adults, one that overlaps with it but uses its physical resources quite differently.”

The exhibition will be presented in WIELS Belgium during the Spring 2023.

Learn more from the Belgian Pavilion.

Image at top: Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #23: Step on a Crack, Hong Kong, 2020 (still)

A still of drone footage overlooking Venice.

Venice 2022

Presenting our artists in Venice at the Biennale and beyond

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