Francis Alÿs

Cuentos Patrióticos, 1997

In his wanderings through his adopted home country of Mexico, Belgian artist Francis Alÿs (b. 1959) addresses the topic of urban power structures – for instance, in his video film Cuentos Patrioticos, which plays out on the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square. The square was laid out by the Spanish conquistadors as an emblem of their victory over the Aztecs and has repeatedly been the scene of demonstrations of power. In Alÿs’ film Cuentos Patrioticos we see a man taking a sheep on a lead in a circle around the large flagpole on Zócalo square. With every ring of the bell more sheep join the bellwether. Sheep are gregarious animals and accordingly, at the sight of the strange parade on this square so steeped in history, the automatic temptation is to see them as blind followers. In his film Cuentos Patrioticos Alÿs is referencing a real event which took place here in 1968. At the height of the political unrest thousands of civil servants were forced to demonstrate for the government on this central square in the Mexican metropolis. In an act both subversive and, at the same time, humorous, the civil servants rebelled against this directive in the following way: Although they did flock to the square, they turned their backs on the government platform and bleated like sheep. A framed text chosen by the artist and a postcard referring to the events are part of the work and are exhibited alongside the video film.

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Francis Alÿs
Cuentos Patrióticos, 1997
1 channel video installation (colour, sound), 25‘42‘‘ Loop
postcards, collage
Courtesy Sammlung Goetz, Medienkunst, München