Francis Alÿs The Green Line (Sometimes doing something poetic can become political and sometimes doing something political can become poetic) 2005

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Francis Alÿs

In 1995, Alÿs realised an action in São Paolo called The Leak in which he walked from a gallery, around the city, and back into the gallery trailing a dribbled line from an open can of blue paint. This action was reprised in 2004 when he chose to make a work in Jerusalem. Using green paint, Alÿs walked along the armistice border, known as ‘the green line’, pencilled on a map by Moshe Dayan at the end of the war between Israel and Jordan in 1948. This remained the border until the Six Day War in 1967 after which Israel occupied Palestinian-inhabited territories east of the line.

Though palpably absurd, and greeted by onlookers with some bewilderment, Alÿs’s action of dribbling green paint behind him raised the memory of the green line at a time when the separation fence, seen in his paintings here, was under construction to the east of the green line. He later encouraged various commentators from Israel, Palestine, and other countries to reflect on his action, and their voices, sometimes sceptical, sometimes approving, can be heard while the video of his action is screened. Most importantly Alÿs wanted to ask what the role of poetic acts could be in highly charged political situations, while acknowledging that the relation of poetics to politics is always contingent.