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Madre Museum Announces Francis Alys REEL-UNREEL (Afghan Projects, 2010–14)

Madre Museum presents Francis Alys REEL-UNREEL (Afghan Projects, 2010–14) on view June 13–September 22, 2014.

The largest solo exhibition by Francis Alÿs (b. 1959, Antwerp) in an Italian public institution to date, REEL-UNREEL (Afghan Projects, 2010–14), will premiere in Italy the film REEL-UNREEL, 2011, alongside a constellation of related paintings, drawings, collages, postcards, documents and a series of ephemeral objects, which constitute what the artist calls the Afghan Projects. Configured together as an archive/storyboard, whose documentary and narrative structure recalls a travelogue made up of images and annotations, the Afghan Projects work like a board on which, posting thoughts and memories, ideas and comments, encounters and suggestions, interpretations and projects, allowing the artist to dissolve and identify these works with his own experience in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2014. Produced in 2011 at dOCUMENTA (13), REEL-UNREEL is not only the centerpiece of the exhibition but also the symbolic culmination of Alÿs’s artistic practice, by its radical reinvention and re-presentation of the medium adopted, in this case film, its performative matrix and, finally, its combination of critical engagement and aesthetic practice. The title refers both to the action presented in the film and the film itself, which reels on and off the film projector, with a further assonance between the terms reel/real and unreel/unreal adopted by the artist to indicate the fictional, or simply unreal, knowledge in the West of the reality of contemporary Afghanistan. Inspired by the classic street game of rolling a hoop or wheel, an exercise in dexterity that consists of keeping it going with a stick for as long as possible without letting it fall, in the film we witness two children who “reel and unreel” two spools of film through the streets of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The whole city is transformed into an improvised movie set, and the gesture of playing into a three-dimensional projection of a film, which gets covered in dust and detritus, bearing with it—in the material impression on the film—the multiple memory of a community suspended between memory and forgetting, disintegration and reconstruction, past and future, drama and play. All the works in this exhibition thus, each in its own way, challenge and come to terms with the specifics of the medium in which they are expressed (whether sculpture, painting, drawing or film), leaving the interpretation open to the viewers for completing them, like a kaleidoscope in which embedded reality of the news and imaginary reinvention, attempt and failure, politics and poetry are all combined. Hence the seemingly surreal phrase which concludes REEL-UNREEL gains in significance, after evoking the Taliban’s destruction of thousands of reels of film in the square in front of the Afghan Film archives: “Cinema: everything else is imaginary.”

Museo d’arte contemporanea
Donnaregina –Madre, Napoli
Via Settembrini 79
80139 Naples