To coincide with the Francis Alÿs exhibition at Tate Modern, Lightbox presents his film Guards 2004, which is in Tate’s collection. Guards is one of seven films from the project Seven Walks commissioned by Artangel, a London-based art commissioning agency, in 2005.
The film follows 64 Coldstream Guards walking through the empty streets of the ‘Square Mile’ of the City of London as they converge together to form one large group. The film explores themes of urbanisation, habit, ritual and mapping.
Francis Alÿs Guards
London 2004–05, 27 minutes video
Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Rafael Ortega and Artangel
- 64 Coldstream guards enter separately in the City of London, unaware of one another’s route.
- The guards wander through the City looking for one another.
- Upon meeting, they fall into step and march together.
- When a square measuring 8 by 8 guards is built, the complete formation marches towards the closest bridge.
- As they step on to the bridge, the guards break step and disperse.
These instructions form the basis of the film. This work came out of the earlier Duett 1999 for which Alÿs entered Venice carrying one half of a tuba and walked the labyrinthine city until he met a friend who had been walking around carrying the other half.
Guards extends Alÿs’s interests in walking, cities and rhythm and also addresses itself to the particular historical character of London. Guards was filmed from several vantage points, including surveillance cameras and tiny cameras placed inside the soldiers’ bearskin hats, and animated by the complex rhythms of their marching.