Ikon presents a solo exhibition by Belgian-born, Mexico-based artist Francis Alÿs, curated by Marie Muracciole.
Organised by the Beirut Art Center, the exhibition is an outcome of Alÿs’ long-term interest in current affairs in the Middle East and his frequent travelling to that part of the world, especially Iraq and Afghanistan. Featuring new work in a mix of animation, drawing, film, painting and photography, the exhibition is a reflection on the notion of turbulence, from simple instability to chaos, from a meteorological phenomenon to bigger geopolitical pictures, from a simple knot in the hair to an ascending spiral. Knots represent links and bonds, as well as resistance and binding.
Visitors enter the show through Tornado (2000–2010), a video projection which records Alÿs chasing “dust devils” in attempts to get inside them, with camera in hand to film their motionless eyes. The drama of such an action is compelling; the jolting imagery, the sound of the wind in and around the tornadoes compounds a sense of danger, something the artist is prepared to endure before arriving at monochromes of dust, abstracting him from the outside world.
Nearby is an installation of hundreds of drawings, suspended in space at the centre of the gallery, leading on to Exodus 3:14 (2013–2017), a projected drawn animation shown in an endless loop, portraying a young woman tying a knot in her long hair which then undoes itself. The soundtrack is a simple song, a kind of melodious chant for a gesture of self-absorption in which someone is at once engaged and detached.
Other works by Alÿs further reinforce his artistic proposition. Do, Undo (2008) is another looping film in which the artist flicks through papers with the words ‘Do’ and ‘Undo’, back and forth.
A number of small landscapes, oils on canvas, literally spell out what is on the artist’s mind, being inscribed with Spanish and English words such as Turbulencia (Turbulence), Resistencia (Resistance) and Puro Desorden (Pure Disorder). These refer to observations on current affairs as much as personal experience, and it is significant that the artist has spent much time recently in the turbulent Middle East, especially Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a commission for the Beirut Art Center, Alÿs made a number of photographs that are now available as postcards to take away. They reveal the impact of a sandstorm, bringing yellow dust from neighbouring countries where the soil is no longer fixed by roots and plants, instead becoming unstable and volatile after years of conflict.
Exhibition curated by Marie Muracciole. Organised in partnership with the Beirut Art Center. With the kind support of Peter and Natalie Hrechdakian, Marwan T. Assaf, Yola Noujaim, David Zwirner, Jan Mot and those supporters who wish to remain anonymous.