Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Rafael Ortega Rehearsal I (El Ensayo) Tijuana, 1999-2001

Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Rafael Ortega
Rehearsal I (El Ensayo) Tijuana 1999–2001
Private collection © Francis Alÿs Photo: Rafael Ortega

From 1999 onwards, Alÿs has made a series of works exploring the structure of the rehearsal. Rehearsal I 1999–2001 (in room 7) shows a red VW Beetle driving up a hill, an image which is accompanied by a loud soundtrack of a brass band’s rehearsal. The driver was listening to a recording of the rehearsal, and each time the band paused, he stepped off the pedal so the pathetic little car rolled back down, and the process continued without resolution.

For Alÿs the rehearsal recalls ‘the Latin American scenario in which modernity is always delayed’. This is a state of perpetual indeterminacy, but one that enables Latin American societies to continue to resist the imposition of Western models of ‘development’. In room 6, the video Politics of Rehearsal 2004 looks to the origins of the ‘development’ discourse in Harry Truman’s inaugural address of 1949, and its impact on the politics of the southern hemisphere. It features a commentary by the critic Cuauhtémoc Medina, a frequent collaborator of Alÿs’s.

In these rooms we can also see many of the drawings, oil paintings, animations, and small videos that accompanied the gestation and production of these two main videos. They illustrate Alÿs’s way of working – exploring a set of ideas over and over in various new ways, but without aiming for a single point of resolution. This way of working echoes the structure of the rehearsal.