Set theory

Mexico City 1997.

rotulando

“By now it doesn’t matter whether you are looking at a model, a copy, or a copy of a copy”

The first body of his work to draw international attention, the series of paintings he made beginning in 1993 in collaboration with the sign painters (rotulistas) of his Mexico City neighborhood, are predicated on a potentially endless series of revisions and recapitulations. As he described the process, “I commissioned various sign painters to produce enlarged copies of my smaller original images. Once they had completed several versions, I produced a new ‘model,’ compiling the most significant elements of each sign painter’s interpretation. This second ‘original’ was in turn used as a model for a new generation of copies by sign painters, and so on, ad infinitum.”6 They are an endless rehearsal, in other words, with multiple finished performances (paintings), none of them definitive, none of them truly final.

With this work, Alÿs took on board another aspect of the rehearsal process: collaboration with others. In theatrical or musical rehearsal, an essential part of practice is the degree to which the different impulses and talents of the various participants operate alongside and against those of the others. No matter how determined or dictatorial an author, director, or composer maybe, there is always an element of collaboration that is integral to the passage from initial rehearsal to finished work.

©©Francis Alÿs

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