contemporary, video

Francis Alÿs: Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing)

June 14, 2010

The art of Francis Alÿs is a reflection of political realities. In this film he pushes a block of ice around the streets of Mexico City for six or seven hours until it melts. On the same streets, thousands of locals spend their days pushing, carrying or towing wares or chattels. The results are the same: nothing to show for all the hard work.

But Alÿs does have something to show for it, a five minute film. And in a work called Ambulantes I and II, he also gives the street traders and removal men their due. Physical labour has given rise to art, if not profit, but what good is that to people who earn a living by the sweat of their brow?

The piece is called Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Doing Something Leads To Nothing), as if Alÿs were making a point about the futility of art. And yet this is not merely art about art. The routines of manual workers are just as much of a praxis and must at most times feel just as paradoxical.

Compared with such hardship the artwork melts away; the city absorbs it and the viewer, whoever they may be, can see those hot, dusty streets as if for the first time. And that is something.

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception is at Tate Modern until 5 September.

3 Comments

  • Reply Andrew July 7, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I was overcome with the inescapable sadness that some ad man, sooner or later, is going to be all over this. The film will be largely unchanged, except for the last 20 seconds when the ice-cube size lump of ice is presented to a glass of Magners. Ahhhh, refreshing!

  • Reply Città del Messico vista da un artista straniero | Cuartel - Headquarters for art & culture February 23, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    […] Alÿs: Paradox of Praxis I (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing): http://www.criticismism.com/2010/06/14/francis-alys-paradox-of-praxis-i-sometimes-doing-something-leads-to-... , URL consultato in data […]

  • Reply criticismism » Blog Archive » Work Programme at CAC, Brighton January 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    […] important film, also called Paradox of Praxis, follows the Belgian artist as he pushes a block of ice around the […]

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