Francis Alÿs – Can faith move a whole mountain?

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Francis Alys - When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru 1

Francis Alÿs – When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

Published: August 3, 2017

Last updated:

Introduction

When Faith Moves Mountains or Cuando la fe mueve montañas was created by artist Francis Alÿs to explain the paradox of life; sometimes people make things that lead to nothing, while sometimes making nothing leads to remarkable things.

500 participants took part

In this piece, Alÿs managed to persuade 500 participants made up primarily of locals situated on the outskirts of Lima to help move a hill located on the outer edge of town one shovel at a time. The 500 volunteers armed with shovels and all dressed in similar-looking shirts formed a line at the bottom of a large 1600 foot (487m) sand dune. The volunteers moved sand from the dune and positioned it about 4 inches (10cm) from its original spot, therefore, creating a brand new mountain. The project was completed as part of the Third Ibero-American Biennial of Lima.

Francis Alys - When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

Francis Alÿs – When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

The power of human will

Francis Alys - When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru Francis Alÿs – When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru[/caption]

What the project mean for the participants

One of the other objectives of this piece was to incite the multiple subjects included in the project to become storytellers with the aim of creating one communal event which would in the future help to strengthen the Lima community and prove to them that faith can indeed move mountains. When the project was completed, the participants seemed grateful to be involved, which implies that the artist’s purpose was realized. The local Lima volunteers were proud to take part in the project and they realized the project’s story worthiness.

Francis Alys - When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

Francis Alÿs – When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

Video: Making of

15 min 6 sec
Francis Alÿs – When Faith Moves Mountains, 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, 15.01min, Lima, Peru

The purpose of the project

The project documented in photographs and videos was extraordinarily impressive; however, it only served the purpose of a social parable. The action of moving the sand dune was transitory and no one could recognize that the sand had been moved from its original position the next day. The aftermath and the success of the project lay in its capacity to effectively induce conversations that allowed audiences to generate an image out of the project. The project supplied audiences with true insight and the ease of its delivery was the artist’s greatest strength.

Francis Alys - When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

Francis Alÿs – When Faith Moves Mountains (still), 2002, In collaboration with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Rafael Ortega. 16mm film transferred to DVD, Lima, Peru

All images: Francis Alÿs unless otherwise noted.

 

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