Francis Alÿs’ The Nature of the Game, Belgian Pavilion, Venice Biennale

The Belgian Pavilion (Flemish Community) at La Biennale de Venezia has invited curator Hilde Teerlinck and artist Francis Alÿs to envelop the space with striking small-size paintings in “two decompression rooms” before entering a vast room featuring new films. The Nature of the Game, showcases children from around the world in public space.

Since 1999, during his many travels, Francis Alÿs’ camera has followed children playing in public spaces. The project started with the video Childrens Game #1: Caracoles, showing a young boy kicking a bottle up a steep street, only to let it roll back to him and then kicking it up again.

“Children’s play is to be understood as a creative relationship with the world in which they are living. Observing, investigating and documenting human behaviour in urban life is a constant in Alÿs’ work. His films record, in an ethnographical way, both the power of cultural tradition and the free and autonomous attitudes of children, even in the most conflicted of situations. Over the last decade, children’s play has gained a central position in Alÿs’ practice, its recording becoming a way to understand the patterns by which people live. Although some of the games can be related to a specific geographic or cultural tradition, most of them are played all over the world. And thus, gives work its universal character.” Curator Hilde Teerlinck said.

Filming without interfering in the games, Alÿs reveals the hidden rules of playing, the ingenious interaction of the children with their environment, their deep complicity and their hopeful mood and joy. The installation in the Pavilion invites the visitor to walk through a labyrinth of screens as if they were in the middle of a global playground. The sound and image of the different films interact with each other, fragments forming together a whole, allegories translating the complexity of a sometimes harsh reality.

The resulting pavilion is impressive, poignant and very poetic.

Images: Francis Alÿs, Outskirts of Mosul (2016). Image courtesy the artist and Children’s Game #19: Haram Football, Mosul, Iraq, 2017 (© Photo by Francis Alÿs)