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Francis Alys's tornado art

Will Gompertz | 08:47 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

I like Francis Alys's art. It's often silly and surreal but has a poignancy that's lacking in the work of, say, Maurizio Catalan - here's a good interview with Catalan in Interview.

This is a clip from one of his films that is currently part of his retrospective at Tate Modern.

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Whatever serious philosophical messages it might be relaying, it is first and foremost funny. The rather prim text below from the curator's catalogue entry doesn't do any justice to this crucial aspect. I can't imagine Alys describing his work in such a way.

Since 2000, Alys has visited an area in the Mexican countryside where tornadoes occur, and has filmed his attempts to run into the eyes of the storms. The footage was gathered over a decade and edited to make the intense video Tornado 2000-10.

For Alys, the dust storm suggests the imminent collapse of a system of government or of political order. The act of running into the storm, which we see repeated over and over again, also invites interpretation: is the artist no longer able to combat the chaos he encounters? Is he recognising the vanity of poetic gestures at a time of calamity? Or is it only within the chaos that he can challenge the turmoil around him?

Reaching the centre of the storm, the artist is breathless and almost blinded, yet he encounters a furtive moment of peace that could hint at a new moment of possibility. There are more videos at Alys's website.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    poignancy? really?

    they're odd little movies but I prefer what you get when you preview the film by holding the cursor over the thumbnail image, a kind of Oktokino effect. after that the films I selected seemed tediously drawn out.

  • Comment number 2.

    Un Chien Andalou is art, this isn't - watching people being stupid with natural phenomena is really quite easy these days - on several dozen TV channels, all day, every day. - Did the 'artist' enjoy being stupid? Running into a whirlwind to save a child is justifiable and valid - running into a whirlwind to see what it is like isn't!

  • Comment number 3.

    "For Alys, the dust storm suggests the imminent collapse of a system of government or of political order. The act of running into the storm, which we see repeated over and over again, also invites interpretation: is the artist no longer able to combat the chaos he encounters? Is he recognising the vanity of poetic gestures at a time of calamity? Or is it only within the chaos that he can challenge the turmoil around him?........"

    In other words it's the usual dreary pretentious nonsense.

 

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