Introduction. When Faith Moves Mountains or Cuando la fe mueve montañas was created by artist Francis Alÿs to explain the paradox of life;. Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception at Tate Modern 15 June to 5 September room guide room 8, When Faith Moves Mountains. In the performance When Faith Moves Mountains, Francis Alÿs tries to achieve the impossible with eight hundred Peruvian volunteers: to move a mountain
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Written by Riikka Haapalainen. To move a mountain. Why come to Peru to waste your time?
The title of the artwork When Faith moves mountains alludes to an ancient myth, announcing and starting off a fable-resembling narrative and its morale. Moving a mountain is not only about shoveling labor, nor just about will, but first movees foremost about faith. The art project resembles a myth: The video documenting the project begins at the moment when the artist is looking for a suitable mountain to move.
After this, participants and the eyewitnesses recount what happened during the project, and only after that the actual displacement of the mountain is revealed to the audience. Mircea Eliade has stated that when a myth is being told, it becomes a steadfast truth. Utopia translates as a place that is not; a non-place.
In art, this could mean temporary repositioning of the familiar and insignificant. The project involved hundreds of volunteers, who were assigned to move one of the dunes 10 centimetres from its original position with shovels. This one undistinguished sand dune was temporarily transformed into a significant centre, where new set mountaind relations and potentialities could emerge.
Even though utopia is a non-existing place, it can be imagined — visited in dreams and thoughts. It is a fiction that rises from the reality: Hence, utopia is not a faraway place, it is an omnipresent potentiality within the everyday. It emerges from the everyday and out of the elements that already exist.
Still, utopia in this sense is a process: The utopian transformation implied by participatory art projects like the When faith moves mountains may be for instance a temporary shift moujtains a new set of relations. It enables visits in thoughts, that one would normally not experience, or discovering things that would otherwise be left unnoticed. In this manner, it questions the routines and similitude of everyday life. Utopia in this sense is not about bringing forth something more, or better, but about bringing up alternatives.
How, then, can we perceive the utopian aspects of When Faith moves mountains? As mentioned earlier, the project took place in the outskirts of Lima, Peru, in Aprilafter some years of preparation. In the setting, alongside a sand dune, there were hundreds of volunteers, mainly students from local universities, camera crew, police cars, buses and a helicopter, toilets and other equipment.
The outskirts of Lima is a ayls of the city structure that has never been planned, developed or rationalized by the actions of city planning. The area was also inhabited, by the poor, unemployed and immigrants. However, modernization, along with its promises, is always incessantly postponed.
After the shoveling, the mounting still looks the same. Nothing has visibly changed. The hard labor has seemingly been unproductive — a total waste of time – but could also, perhaps more aoys, be read as a way of resisting the logic of capitalism and its ideals of efficiency and productivity.
The heavy work in the When faith moves mountains is JUST work, without any measurable, material or permanent outcomes. The land was unfruitful and it will remain unfruitful. There is only a tiny transition or displacement of a mountain, which soon will vanish.
Then, what is the point of this useless physical struggle? Maybe it is to concretely prove how the modern or post-modern world fundamentally perceives alyw values labor. The shoveling could be defined as useless at least in two ways: Understanding the shoveling only as useless and immaterial, is according to Mircea Eliade rfancis projection of the profanation process, in which the notion of work does not carry any other functions than productivity.
For instance, agriculture in profane society is based only on economic profit: And in my reading this shared faith is the utopian potentiality here. Antropologist Mary Douglas has written about how the notions of the sacred and the profane mountaind separated as oppositional fracis. For her, the state of exaltation is the opposite of heavy labor. It is hot, the sand is making dust, it is difficult to see and breath. Moment by moment, the shoveling becomes harder and harder.
And fgancis, the volunteers are more and more enthusiastic and inspired: This temporary mix of hardship, enthusiasm and grandiose silliness transfers the project of the When faith moves mountains towards something that cannot be clearly categorized or named, maybe towards utopia.
To conclude, the Utopia in the When faith moves mountains is not strong or clearly articulated. It is a direction without a program or manifestation.
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It only requires a structure, potentiality and hope or faith like in this case. Understood within terms of productive or franxis work, the project was totally useless.
Still, people were participating in it; and still the project was commonly regarded as a success. When Faith Moves Mountains was not about creating or even imagining something that franvis be conceived as better or more meaningful. Materially, it was about organizing and re-organizing something indifferent fxith something as indifferent.
What became interesting, was everything else it made visible: The community of the artwork was based on porous temporality. It emerged from the shared mluntains, and subsided later. Volunteers and other people came together not because it was sensible, not because of reason, or hope for profit, but because of the faith and commitment for the utopian possibility.
Hence, utopia is to be found in everyday life as a tendency towards something that is not yet; a weak potentiality that is not yet articulated nor imagined. The truth is, that the people who took part felt totally involved. And the fact that it took such a huge dimension means that it will generate one story after another. And the story will be passed on like an oral tradition. And later the ones who were aoys will tell the freshmen coming in. That way a memory will be built up of an event that only lasted a day.
But will live on for who knows how long.
Francis Alÿs. When Faith Moves Mountains. | MoMA
Currently she is also undertaking her doctoral research in everyday utopias of participatory art in the Finnish Doctoral Programme in Art History University of Helsinki, Helsinki.
Whhen may be constructed and monumentalized. The modernity, the so called development is being introduced here as an obligation to the west: E-mail required, but will not display.
Notify me of follow-up comments. Forms of resilience Ecologies of resilience: However, beneath this mythologizing discourse, we will find the material traces of specific political actions belonging to the particular describable actors. These material traces shed a light movfs complex processes which were enacted throughout the time of emergency in Britain. The twentieth century history of Buenos Aires can be read through its public spaces.
At once a criticism of the lack of technological advancement of Central America and a statement on the legacy of the Cold War in the region, Tropical Space Proyectos is a powerful reminder of both the real and symbolic divide of modernity in the contemporary world.
Therefore, utopia is grounded on the notion of lack or absence; it is something that is not-yet, not-here. As a purely formal experience, Abstract Expressionism failed to recuperate Western culture during its revolutionary moments of potential in the fatih, cathartic moments after World War II.