Photo via

Since this past November, MALBA has dedicated one and a half floors of its famed white interiors to three thought-provoking projects by contemporary Belgian-born, Mexico based artist Francis Alÿs; each taking us to a different part of the world where marginalized peoples are made into overdue protagonists through sketches, films, texts and toy boats made from sandals.

Paying the city’s renowned museum a visit is an absolute must as the exhibition is set to continue on tour to Havana, Toronto and Los Angeles on February 15th.

“A Story of Negotiation” showcases ongoing social and geo-political issues, through the abstract eyes of Alÿs: a very different perspective to the one we are faced with in the media. His work creates an innovative dialogue that allows his audience to broaden their perspectives on the very real structures of power propping up the scenarios we are seeing play out across the world.

Through a variety of media, he sends a message on the detached realities taking place within the conflicts of Afghanistan and on the migrant boats we see on our television screens, always with a focus on movement and travel.

“‘Story of a negotiation’ has a double meaning. It revolves around the concession between the imagination and the realization of a project.”

Cuauhtémoc Medina, the exhibition’s curator

Room 1 (Second Floor): Migration

This room probably hits hardest in today’s context. We have become all too familiar with images of boats, crammed with bodies, numbers, fleeing home in hope for a better life. Migration is nothing new, but with Europe’s crisis, Alÿs’ project is more relevant than ever and pushes the visitor to think critically about the past, present and future of the phenomenon human migration.

Images of people who have crossed borders over the years are depicted in paintings, using pairs of contrasting words painted on continents (instead of, say, “Europe” and “Africa”) more accurate than the hundreds used in newspapers, which have been carefully selected to display, from a variety of international paper cutouts.

long — belong

us — them

in — out

known — unknown

leave — return

beginning — end

open — close

immigration — emigration

The second part revolves around Alÿs’ idea of uniting two continents via a line of people; children, as a way of highlighting the North-South imbalance and fear of immigration. The use of children also allows the artist to fantastically portray an imaginary scenario of humans bridging the thirteen kilometer gap of sea that divides Spain and Morocco.

Room 2 (Second Floor): Mexico

The second room revolves around the ever-changing dynamics of the country Alÿs now calls home. With a camera and strong winds, Alÿs put together a clip in which he chases a tornado and gets inside to record its energy and sounds.

Alÿs uses Mexico’s brutal climate changes as a metaphor for the country’s social and political instability.

Room 3 (First Floor): Afghanistan

The exhibition ends one floor down, where Alÿs’ time with the British army in Afghanistan is recorded on paper with colored pencils, words and photograph cutouts. He plays with the reality portrayed by western media by using television color bars to block the reality of life in Kabul; the reality of the conflict as he saw it.

In the second part of this piece, motion is at play. A dark room projects Alÿs’ twenty minute long film, Reel-Unreel (2011), in which children playing endlessly with reels of censored film, are the focus point. The rolling motion is filmed from almost every angle, confronting the viewer with the poor conditions in which the children grow up, but also the joy a flat cylinder can bring to distract them from the chaos not far.

As with all his works, Alÿs’ thought-provoking title comes with a double meaning: referring to both the action of “winding” and “unwinding” rolls of film and the “real” versus “unreal” image of Afghanistan transmitted by the Western media.

Photo via Malba
Photo via Malba

When? From Thursdays to Monday, 12PM — 8PM and on Wednesdays, 12PM — 9PM

Where? MALBA, Av. Pres. Figueroa Alcorta 3415

How much? Included with general admission 75 ARS for adults

36 ARS for students and retirees

*general admission is 36 pesos for everyone each and every Wednesday.