press release

Francis Alÿs. Knots’n Dust
31.01.2018 - 09.04.2018

Talk with Francis Alÿs & Marie Muracciole : January 31, 8–9:30pm

This first solo show of Francis Alÿs in Lebanon (and in the region), Knots’n dust gathers the artist’s early and recent works that explore themes of turbulence: the motions at the core and their outspread effects, ranging from the miniscule to the monumental. The show goes back and forth between the smallest element of unrest and instability to the most exaggerated form of disorder that this small unit can engender; from instability to total chaos, from meteorological phenomena to geopolitical manifestations, from a simple knot in the hair to an ascending spiral.

This project was two-years in the making with Marie Muracciole for Beirut Art Center, around a new animation film, Exodus 3:14 (working title), that portrays a female character completing a benign and beautiful gesture that the loop transforms in a Sisyphean task. With this knot, a vortex opens itself; the hair infinitely undoes itself as in a gesture of self-absorption in which she appears both engaged and detached.

Knots represent links and bonds, as well as resistance and binding. They are the smallest unit in the making of a fabric yet they are its sine qua non mechanic condition: a continuous surface that can bring some opacity, some support for projection, inscription, hiding, drawing and building.

This exhibition gives focus to the preliminary, the intuitions, the rebounds, the traces or the result of the process of making, showing the course and the detours of the ideas, each element building links between apparently disparate works. Alÿs’s work is characterized by fragments that borrow from one another, sometimes exchanging status, and encompassing videos, drawings, sketches and installation. Studies and sketches become paintings, and some paintings are also templates that can multiply. On display are six small canvases connecting tornados to hair, whilst they associate with the motion of sketching.

Knots (walks) Mexico (2006) produces its own code of registering the incidents of a walk: the small reactions, movements and accidents that happen to the stroller. These notes are written with different knots accompanied by their translation on a sheet of paper, tying the knots to actions and situations. Tornados is a 33 minute video where the artist chases “dust devils” and attempts to enter their eye with a camera in hand. Francis Alÿs then films their windless core, a monochrome of dust that literally abstracts him from the outside world.

As a local echo of this series, the show includes photographs taken by Alÿs in the streets of Beirut in 2015 during a sand storm. Was this yellow dust traveling with the wind from the uncultivated soil of the neighboring countries Iraq and Syria, where war previously held most of the agriculture? In many regions there, the soil is not fixed anymore by roots and plants and has becomes volatile after years of conflicts. The desert walks and flies away, the political situation draws a migrant landscape from one desolated country to a modern metropolis that receives a veil of dry mud.

Between the traces and the oblivion of the country’s wars and wounds, between memories of a faraway golden age and the never ending (re)construction of an increasingly globalized metropolis, Beirut seems to produce a space inside of the tornado, in its eye, with a vision of history frozen in monochrome. You can see it as a space for freedom or for alienation. You can build on it or drown in it. But it will not be the same for everyone nor will it be forever. As in many of Alÿs’s work, every affirmation walks along with its opposite, any gesture comes with its own undoing. "’Doubt, doubt again & doubt better.'" This poetic step invites the spectator to engage in larger issues throughout deceptively insignificant details.

Curated by Marie Muracciole

This exhibition is generously supported by Jan Mot, David Zwirner, Peter & Nathalie Hrechdakian, Marwan T. Assaf, Yola Noujaim and Anonymous.