Mexico : Francis Alys


Alys and I


It's Alys, the other one, that things happen to. I walk through Mexico City and I pause - mechanically now, perhaps - to gaze at people walking and street dogs sleeping; news of Alys reaches me by e-mail, or I see his name on a list of artists or in some catalogue. My taste runs to cities, cinema, copyists, ____, the taste of coffee, and the prose of ____;
Alys shares those preferences, but in a vain sort of way that turns them into the accoutrements of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that our relationship is ambivalent - I live, I allow myself to live, so that Alys can spin out his paintings, photographs, walks, videos, songs, drawings and sculptures, and that work is my justification. I willingly admit that he has made a number of sound art works, but those things will not save me, perhaps because the good in them no longer belongs to any individual, not even to that other man, but rather to history itself, or to tradition. Beyond that, I am doomed - utterly and inevitably - to oblivion, and fleeting moments will be all of me that survives in that other man. Spinoza believed that all things wish to go on being what they are - stone wishes eternally to be stone, and bear, to be bear. I shall endure in Alys, not in myself (if, indeed, I am anybody at all), but I recognize myself less in his art works than in many others', or in the tedious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him, and I moved on from the mythologies of the streets to the games with time, travel, identity and infinity, but those games belong to Alys now, and I shall have to think up other things. So my life is a point-counterpoint, a kind of fugue, and a falling away - and everything winds up being lost to me, and everything falls into oblivion, or into the hands of the other man.

I am not sure which of us it is that's writing this page.*

* This essay was originally published as "Alys and I (After Borges and I), "Francis Alys: Walks/Paseos, interventions by Kitty Scott, Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, 1997, p. 35. The original version was based on "Borges and I" in Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, translated by James E. Irby, New York, New Directions, 1964, p. 246-47. The above essay is a variation on "Alys and I (After Borges and I)" and "Borges and I" as it appeared in Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley, New York, Penguin Group, 1999, p. 324. For additional information on Francis Alys see A Dictionary of Alys by ____ (London: Praxis Press, 2000). Other dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference books, biographies, and works of criticism have been consulted, but none has been as definitive and rigorous as A Dictionary of Alys.



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