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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 1, 2014
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Real or Unreel?
December 1, 2014   
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Reel-Unreel (Afghan Projects, 2010-2014), on show at the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, is Poland’s first individual exhibition of work by Belgian artist Francis Alys.

Organized jointly with the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina Museum in Naples, Italy, Reel-Unreel has been arranged as a travel journal, focusing on Alys’s multiple visits to Afghanistan in recent years.

The exhibition takes its title from the 2011 video Reel-Unreel, Alys’s statement on filmmaking as an art form. Through the video, the artist pays tribute to traditional analog film. The title refers to reels of film on a movie projector. Alys plays with the words “reel/real” and “unreel/unreal” to emphasize that the image of Afghanistan in the Western media differs dramatically from Afghanistan in real life. Ewa Gorz±dek, the curator of the exhibition, says the video was inspired by an incident where the Taliban set fire to the National Film Archive in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and reels of film went up in flames.

The Reel-Unreel video is being shown in the Warsaw exhibition alongside an extensive selection of paintings, drawings, collages, sketches and documents that together form Alys’s Afghan Projects. These call to mind a travel journal.

Alys, born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium, is a painter, video artist and performance artist. In 1986, he relocated to Mexico City to help the locals rebuild the city after an earthquake. He is known around the world for performances that he documents on video and in which he explores the social and political models of urban environments. The artist employs unconventional techniques in his work, such as taking near-obsessive walks around cities, so as to individualize the notion of public space. Alys uses performance art to investigate the relationship between political, social and cultural issues in contemporary society.

Newsweek magazine has named Alys one of the world’s 10 most important living artists.


Until Jan. 11
Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art; 2 Jazdów St.
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