"Samuel Beckett is the most obvious accomplice of Alÿs’s aesthetic sensibility, as the wall text at MoMA explains: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” A resident of Mexico City for the past 25 years, Alÿs has borne witness to the continual attempts (and, one might argue, successive failures) at modernization by the country’s government and its citizens, resulting in a tragic farce that, in the wake of ever-increasing violence and disorder, continues to play itself out on one of life’s largest stages. One observes this theme of repetitive failure in almost all of the artist’s work, but most apparently in his short films and performances, waged globally across international borders, labor classes, and art history.
A three-part video installation of When Faith Can Move Mountains (2002), commissioned for the second Lima Biennial and perhaps one of Alÿs’s most famous actions, is also featured, along with dozens of drawings, notes, clippings, and e-mail exchanges related to the monumental performance. For the project, 500 volunteers clad in white converged with shovels upon an enormous sand dune on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, and, over the course of an afternoon, enacted a visual demonstration of “faith vs. insanity.” Documentary evidence in the form of aerial photography, video, and personal testimony account for the exploit’s potency: Alÿs and the participants, moving the natural structure a mere few inches, had tapped into art’s revolutionary potential for change. In Kafka-esque fashion, historical determinacy was suddenly obliterated."
from: A Story of Deception