Frances Alys

Francis Alys: Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing (2009) [Online Video] At: (Accessed 03/04/2021).

Francis Alys is a visual conceptual artist, born in Belgium in 1959, who originally worked as an architect. He moved to Mexico city in 1986, and has a studio there. His work is heavily influenced by his adopted country.

Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing is actually entitled ‘The Paradox of Practis I’. It is a video, depicting Alys pushing a gradually diminishing block of ice through the streets of the city of Mexico.

He initially pushes the block ice with his hands, but as it melts and gets smaller and smaller, he pushes and kicks it with his feet. Throughout the video you can see the sights and hear the sounds of the city.

I love the idea of this artistic performance as a continuous drawing, creating pathways through the city, and bringing in new colours to the ‘canvas’. The ‘line’ gradually gets smaller and smaller, yet wetter and wetter, as the ice melts to a small pool.

I often draw in continuous lines, and this reminded me very much of this. Letting the line meandre across the paper in a flowing motion, just as the ice floated through the streets in a continuous journey, without losing contact with the ground below. There is a spontaneity there, and a freedom. The artist is controlling the medium, yet giving it freedom at the same time.

I imagine it was very tiring, pushing a block of ice through the streets for nine hours. But it is a wonderful piece of conceptual art. The lines were impermanent, yet the video documented the art in a permanent manner.

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