< Exhibitions
Untitled (Before the Prophet)
Francis Alÿs
Dec 9, 2011 - Jan 14, 2012

It could be seen during the Francis Alÿs retrospective at Wiels that he is one of those artists who have made participatory action a central feature of their artistic work. That is to say that he activates mechanisms that require the participation of others to assume their full poetic-political scale.

The drawing shown in the Wunderkammer highlights another recurring phenomenon in Alÿs: walking, strolling.

We see this wandering in the many works and we can only attempt to draw parallels with certain philosophers who have elevated walking to the status of process essential to the practice of philosophy. We only have to refer to the Peripatetics, followers of Aristotle in Ancient Greece or Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote in his Confessions: "Walking animates and enlivens my spirits; I can hardly think when in a state of inactivity; my body must be exercised to make my judgment active". He sees in these moments of solitude an ideal time to be alone, without hindrance or obstacle, to think.

In notes, Francis Alÿs writes the opposite: "As I walk, I do not think"(In Story of Deception, P.119), which can also be understood, since walking is a dynamic activity that can 'clear' the mind. For many works, he uses walking as a way of working. The relationship between walking and thinking is obvious, whether we think or not. The winding of a route may be reminiscent of the meanderings of the mind.

In the drawing exhibited, the character seems to be a man walking deep in thought. One senses from his gait that he is absorbed by his cerebral activity and his legs are moving as a reflex action.

One could say that he is being led rather than leading.

The raised finger, meaning a kind of truth found or line of reasoning in the process of development, gives the character a certain solemnity.

It is interesting to note the presence of his shadow projected onto the wall and a semi-erased silhouette on the ground. The man is transparent but casts a shadow. The lower part of his body is in the coloured double trapezium while the upper part is drawn on a white background, as if the head illuminated the body with the purity of the concepts imagined.

The drawing consists, as often in Alÿs, of scattered elements, sheets superimposed or glued together.

The visitor will understand that here, they are faced with an echo, a superimposed sheet, of Schütte's old friends (the man and his shadow) as well as the solitude found in the paintings of Perramant.