Ciudad Juárez Projects -  Francis Alÿs
Venues: University City; National Pedagogical University of Chihuahua; State High School #3042; Institute of Architecture, Design and Art; Institute of Social Sciences and Administration; Ciudad Juarez Art Museum; La Rodadora Interactive Museum; BRP.
October 17 – December 15, 2016

Project Supported by Patronato de Arte Contemporáneo

Francis Alÿs: Ciudad Juárez Projects

Ciudad Juárez Projects is a body of work by the Belgian-born, Mexico City-based artist, Francis Alÿs. The work was made across multiple visits between 2013 and 2014 in downtown Juarez - near the Calle Mariscal, along the international border, and in housing developments in the southern periphery of the city.   This exhibition showcases not only two completed video works by the artist (Children's Game #15, 2013 and Paradox of Praxis #5, 2013) but also presents notes, maps, drawings and photographs that show a thoughtful, associative and sometimes even playful engagement with the subject matter, and provide a visual map of the artist’s processes as he negotiates his own role in relation to the conflict playing out in the urban landscape.

In recent years Juárez has repeatedly served as a backdrop, a central theme,  or a catalyst for the production of artwork by a wide range of international contemporary artists, though arguably none as well-known as Alÿs himself. To make work of this caliber, that responds in direct and honest ways to the city’s history, identity, rhythms and psyche, requires at some level the participation of people who are from this place, and who have intimate knowledge of its culture, history and geography.  International artists wanting to make work that is authentic, relevant, and rooted in the cityscape, require the input and guidance of people who call this border city home. The projects you see here were made with the active participation of a group of Juarez residents who served as intermediaries and cultural translators, responding to the artistic aims and means of the artist and connecting him with the people, places, landscapes and activities that would provide the context for an authentic and grounded response to the reality of Ciudad Juárez.

Countless young artists from Juarez have played the role of mediator in recent years for visiting artists from around the globe who want to make work about this place, and who often capitalize on sensational themes of borders, drug wars or femicides. Too often these artistic processes mirror the production processes of the maquiladora industry.  Foreign agents engage local labor in the manufacturing or production of artworks, which are then exported to museums in Mexico City, the United States or Europe.  Artist assistants and other local protagonists in these works rarely have the opportunity to experience the finished product in its final form, which is assembled, completed and displayed elsewhere.  In this kind of process, the objects and ideas created in response to the city have no practical function here.  They do not reconnect with the border itself, or change, improve, or in any other way affect the lives of the people who live here.

This presentation of Ciudad Juárez Projects stands out in this regard, thanks to the generosity of the artist himself, and the unique role that Proyectos Impala plays in the community and in the economy of contemporary art on the border.  This space provides a platform for the finished artwork to be re-integrated into the city’s life where it is presented for assessment, discussion, appreciation and critique to the very people who form the subject matter of the work at hand.

Kerry Doyle, Director
Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, TX.