Francis Alÿs | Belgian Pavilion | David Zwirner
A header image featuring the text Francis Alys: The Nature of the Game

In the Belgian Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2022, Francis Alÿs presents The Nature of the Game, an installation curated by Hilde Teerlinck featuring a group of new short films as well as a selection of paintings.

Known for addressing complex geopolitical issues through his imaginative and poetic observations of daily life, Alÿs (b. 1959) has documented children at play in public spaces across the globe in his Children’s Games series for more than two decades.

The Nature of the Game will present a selection of films from the Children’s Games series, which started in 1999 and is ongoing. Included in the selection will be new works, filmed between 2017 to 2022 and ranging in location from Hong Kong, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Belgium, and Mexico, among others. A selection of small paintings will also be included, adding context to where some of the films were made. The full series of Children’s Games is viewable online here.

Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #27: Rubi, Tabacongo, DR Congo, 2021 (still). Made in collaboration with Julien Devaux and Félix Blume

Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #27: Rubi, Tabacongo, DR Congo, 2021 (still). Made in collaboration with Julien Devaux and Félix Blume

Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #27: Rubi, Tabacongo, DR Congo, 2021 (still). Made in collaboration with Julien Devaux and Félix Blume

“His films record, in an ethnographical way, both the power of cultural tradition and the free and autonomous attitudes of children, even in the most conflicted of situations. Over the last decade, children’s play has gained a central position in Alÿs’s practice, its recording becoming a way to understand the patterns by which people live. Although some of the games can be related to a specific geographic or cultural tradition, most of them are played all over the world. And thus, gives the work its universal character.”

—Hilde Teerlinck,  curator of the Belgian Pavilion

Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #1, Caracoles, Mexico City, Mexico, 1999 (still)

Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #1, Caracoles, Mexico City, 1999 (still) 

Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #1, Caracoles, Mexico City, 1999 (still) 

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Roberto Ruiz

“Something that interested me in terms of my experience as an artist was the way children’s games tended to have a universal quality.… A good example is rayuela, or hopscotch: there are an infinite number of variants but the basic mechanics remain throughout the many cultures I know. You depart earth to cross hell and reach paradise, and then you return to earth jumping over hell, that is, reborn! It is a game of redemption.”

—Francis Alÿs

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Dario Lasagni

 

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Dario Lasagni

 
Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Dario Lasagni

Installation view, Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2022, Venice. Photo by Dario Lasagni

“Stories and games often lead us to a time before their beginning, or force us to start before the place of our departure, defying the convention of the linearity of time that seems to define the ethos of the adult world.”

—Cuauhtémoc Medina, curator

A painting by Francis Aly called untitled, Bamiyan, Afghanistan, dated 2010

Francis Alÿs, Bamiyan, Afghan, 2010 (detail)

Francis Alÿs, Bamiyan, Afghan, 2010 (detail)

A detail of a painting by Francis Alÿs titled Herat, Afghanistan, dated 2012

Francis Alÿs, Untitled, Herat, Afghanistan, 2012 (detail)

Francis Alÿs, Untitled, Herat, Afghanistan, 2012 (detail)

A detail of painting by Francis Alÿs, titled Coyocan, Mexico, June, 2020"

Francis Alÿs, Coyocan, Mexico, June, 2020 (detail)

Francis Alÿs, Coyocan, Mexico, June, 2020 (detail)

A detail of a painting by Francis Alÿs, Yadz, titled Iran, Nov, dated 2006

Francis Alÿs, Yadz, Iran, Nov, 2006 (detail)

Francis Alÿs, Yadz, Iran, Nov, 2006 (detail)

“The whole of Alÿs’s art resonates with the themes found in the rituals that children perform. Many of these emphasize persistence and repetition, as well as the spectacle of an outsider on the periphery of society.” 

—David MacDougall, anthropologist and filmmaker

Behind-the-scenes photograph featuring Francis Alÿs in Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Mercedes Vilardell

Behind-the-scenes photograph featuring Francis Alÿs in Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo. Photo by Mercedes Vilardell

Behind-the-scenes photograph featuring Francis Alÿs in Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo. Photo by Mercedes Vilardell

Behind the scenes of Francis Alÿs, Children’s Game #23b- Step on a Crack, Hong Kong, dated 2020

Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Rafael Ortega, Julien Devaux, and Félix Blume, Children’s Game #23: Step on a Crack, Hong Kong, 2020

Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Rafael Ortega, Julien Devaux, and Félix Blume, Children’s Game #23: Step on a Crack, Hong Kong, 2020

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Francis Alÿs, Artist Notebook, 2018 (detail)

Francis Alÿs, Artist Notebook, 2018 (detail)

“[The Children’s Games series] could constitute something of an anthropological archive of a significant shared experience that the erosion of urban communities, the empire of cars in the streets, the greater dependency of children on the solitary confinement of new forms of electronically mediated entertainment and concerns for the safety of children in the street are slowly eradicating from our way of life.”  

—Cuauhtémoc Medina

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue published by DCV Books; a limited number of copies will also be available at David Zwirner’s global gallery locations.

 

Francis Alÿs’s The Nature of the Game will also be presented later at WIELS Belgium during the spring of 2023.

Venice map by Eden Weingart for David Zwirner

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