Monday, March 17, 2014

Sandi Dooley reviews Francis Alys, "When Faith Moves Mountains", #4

Francis Alys (b. 1959) is a Belgian artist who lives and works in Mexico City. I viewed a video titled When Faith Moves Mountains, which documents 500 volunteer Peruvian students equipped with shovels moving a sand dune in Lima Peru in 2002, 10 centimeters from its original position. Alys worked in collaboration with Cuauhtemoc Medina and Rafail Ortega. The view from the helicopter showed that the volunteers had formed a single line to move the sand dune; several video cameras, from different viewpoints, were used.

The following link is to an online video of the performance:

This performance had political meaning because it used allegory to question the effectiveness of bestowing democracy on a country. According to Tyler Green who writes the blog, BLOUIN ARTINFO, Modern Art Notes (June 28, 2011), "Because the action was created for the 2002 Lima Biennial, it is viewed as commentary on Peru's transition from Alberto Fujimori's dictatorship to a poverty-addled democracy, a way of asking the question: Does a nation's mass movement thwart something typically considered progress --- access to the ballot box --- matter if it does not improve the lot of the country's people? (curator Russell Ferguson, 2007, Hammer Museum Alys survey, Politics of Rehearsal and curator Klaus Biesenbach, 2011, A story of Deception, 2011)". Does faith in democracy solve problems? Will the small actions of many believers working together overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles?

In spite of the cynicism shown by some, the Peruvian student volunteers said that they felt good about the project, that they felt very involved, and that a memory of the event had been built that would live on. 

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