“Children’s Games” Exhibition by Francis Alÿs

Children’s game No 12 by Francis Alÿs

A few weeks ago, I went to the Contemporary Art Museum of Montréal (MAC) with some artists friends to see the Janet Werner exhibit which includes her work of the last ten years. We were interested in seeing how she paints portraits from fashion photographs of women and cuts them up to reassemble them in the manner of cadavre exquis, recombining parts and transforming the figures further with paint and context. According to our guide, her goal is to bring awareness to the representations of beauty in our society and the impossible standards fashion images create.

While it was an interesting exhibit, nothing compared to the atmosphere we were thrown into when we walked into the room where the Francis Alÿs exhibit is being presented.

This is a large-scale, immersive anthropologically-driven video installation (ongoing and decades-long) shown on eighteen suspended screens playing simultaneously. Through these, you enter the world of childhood across the world.

Alÿs’ presentation plays to our senses (sight and sound) and our emotions as we walk between the screens, hearing children’s laughter, crickets in the grass, a bottle being hit in place of a ball, sounds of marbles and rocks, children playing musical chair and elastic, sounds of joy, sounds of play. You are immersed in the children’s world around the globe, with their imaginations beautifully celebrated and centre-stage despite the sometimes dire social and economic realities they face.

This major show probes both interior psychological states and larger geopolitical contexts. As described by John Zeppetelli, director and Chief Curator of the MAC “Children’s Games” scours the earth for ways in which children playfully improvise with everyday objects, conjuring magical yet ordinary games as essential ways of being in the world.” 

Each video has been filmed in a different location or country and all are affirmations of resilience and life and show that childhood is the same all around the world and the need and pleasure to play are always present. You leave the room filled with images that stay with you for a long time, souvenirs from our own childhood and hope for a better world.

This fantastic exhibition is on until January 5th

Here are a few of the featured videos:

To find out more about Francis Alÿs and the artist’s statement go to:  https://macm.org/app/uploads/2019/08/MACMag_v30n2_EN.pdf

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