Francis Alÿs

b. 1959, Antwerp, Belgium. Lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico


Francis Alÿs
Francis Alÿs, Cuentos Patrioticos (Patriotic Tales), 1997 (still)


Francis Alÿs initially trained in engineering and architecture; he moved to Mexico in 1987 where he still lives and works.

Patriotic Tales documents the artist’s re-enactment of a historical moment in Mexico’s political history. The video shows Alÿs leading a flock of sheep in single file around the flagstaff in the middle of the Zócalo, the ceremonial square at the heart of Mexico City, and the centre for urban activities and political rallies. Occasionally, a sheep joins the group, and the others adjust themselves within the circle to maintain its shape. The action mirrors an event in 1968, when civil servants were forced to congregate in the Zócalo to welcome the new government, yet bleated like sheep to mark their protest.

Alÿs brings the memory of humans acting like sheep together with the spectacle of sheep re-enacting human protest, demonstrating that how bodies appear in public is as important as the fact that they gather. And it is their gathering that produces the space of protest, of politics. Protest – a set of relations between people – thus produces the square anew in each instance.