Fantasy Pick #15: Francis Alÿs

I’m playing “Fantasy Art Collection,” inspired by games like Fantasy Baseball. Go to the main page to get the idea.

Fantasy Art Collection pick #15: Guards, video, 2005, Francis Alÿs


Hello 2013. Last year I had 2 resolutions: to install a working fire alarm in my apartment, and go to Orlando. I was so successful on both counts, that I decided to add 2 again this year: to drink more water, and beef up my Fantasy Art Collection.

I’ve been collecting like a ninny—making only 3 acquisitions (Marclay, Gangloff, Albers) in 2012. I’m not sure if I’ve been acting like a super rich person, or a super poor person, but either way I’ve been overly cautious and I don’t like it. On the whole, I don’t like making big public statements about my personal goals, but I think that making one fake purchase of real art every month for a year seems doable.

So … as numero uno of numero 2013 … I’ve added Guards to my collection.


I first saw this video at MoMA PS1 in 2011, as part of the show Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception. My friend and I stopped in randomly, and quickly became miserable as we wandered from room to room looking at giant photographs of a certain anonymous artist crying, and video of this person dressed in a Girl Scout uniform watching the twin towers burn to the ground on 9-11. We were so depressed, heading up to the roof to plot our escape, when we were saved by Francis Alÿs.

For a moment it felt like comic relief since we stumbled into a hallway lined with videos of people tripping over dogs, but the show was great and more complex than that—exploring the boundaries between and overlap of art, architecture and performance.


Most of his work was interesting to me, but I thought the videos were the best. For Guards he documented 64 of the Queen of England’s guards, who each marched along one of many routes that he planned through the city. When one soldier met another, they aligned and began marching together until they met another group or guard. Eventually the entire troop was in formation, they marched to a bridge, crossed it and then dissipated—circulating back into regular life.


“Many of the elements of Guards are found throughout Alys’s work: walking, rhythm, the use of the street and bridges are all common tropes in his oeuvre. These strategies, evoking the poetic and sonic palette of the urban environment, involve a sometimes loose and other times overt relationship to social resistance and to the symbolic and often political implications of these actions.” []

Unfortunately, you can’t watch the video anywhere online (fortunately for me since I just bought it). But it’s on view at the University of Michigan Museum of Art until March 31 (Mom…Dad…Betty…).


4 replies
  1. Betty
    Betty says:

    Interesting! I love this idea of Fantasy Art Collection. I will definitely check out Alÿs’ work at UMMA. His work also seems to straddle the idea of graphic design the way that Hope Gangloff’s work does. Alÿs’ work also references information graphics a bit. Have you heard the This American Life about mapmaking? I think you may find it intriguing.

    xoxo Betty

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    Thanks, Betty. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the video. It’s 30 minutes long, and very mesmerizing. That’s interesting, I didn’t think of his work in relation to graphic design, but now that you mention it, I see what you mean. I’m going to check out the mapmaking bit now … another one of my ideas that float around in the background, maps. I’ve started paintings but im not sure about what they want to be. xo

  3. RMorrill
    RMorrill says:

    This has long been top of my list of artworks in my fantasy collection. When it was first shown in London I went to see it over and over again, and then when it was re-shown in Manchester last year, I found myself glued to it once more…

  4. laura
    laura says:

    Thanks so much for your comment RMorrill! I only have one other friend who saw it and loved it as much, so its really great to hear about your experience.


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