This first solo show of Francis Alÿs in Lebanon (and in the region), Knots’n Dust gathers the artist’s early and recent works that explore themes of turbulence: the motions at the core and their outspread effects, ranging from the miniscule to the monumental. The show goes back and forth between the smallest element of unrest and instability to the most exaggerated form of disorder that this small unit can engender; from instability to total chaos, from meteorological phenomena to geopolitical manifestations, from a simple knot in the hair to an ascending spiral.
This project was two-years in the making with Marie Muracciole for Beirut Art Center, around a new animation film, Exodus 3:14, that portrays a female character completing a benign and beautiful gesture that the loop transforms in a Sisyphean task. With this knot, a vortex opens itself; the hair infinitely undoes itself as in a gesture of self-absorption in which she appears both engaged and detached.
Knots represent links and bonds, as well as resistance and binding. They are the smallest unit in the making of a fabric yet they are its sine qua non mechanic condition: a continuous surface that can bring some opacity, some support for projection, inscription, hiding, drawing and building.
This exhibition gives focus to the preliminary, the intuitions, the rebounds, the traces or the result of the process of making, showing the course and the detours of the ideas, each element building links between apparently disparate works. Alÿs’s work is characterized by fragments that borrow from one another, sometimes exchanging status, and encompassing videos, drawings, sketches and installation. Studies and sketches become paintings, and some paintings are also templates that can multiply. On display are six small canvases connecting tornados to hair, whilst they associate with the motion of sketching.
Between the traces and the oblivion of the country’s wars and wounds, between memories of a faraway golden age and the never ending (re)construction of an increasingly globalized metropolis, Beirut seems to produce a space inside the tornado, in its eye, with a vision of history frozen in monochrome. You can see it as a space for freedom or for alienation. You can build on it or drown in it. But it will not be the same for everyone nor will it be forever. As in many of Alÿs’s work, every affirmation walks along with its opposite, any gesture comes with its own undoing. "’Doubt, doubt again & doubt better.'" This poetic step invites the spectator to engage in larger issues throughout deceptively insignificant details.
Curated by Marie Muracciole.
This exhibition is generously supported by Jan Mot, David Zwirner, Peter & Nathalie Hrechdakian, Marwan T. Assaf, Yola Noujaim and Anonymous.