Alys – Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing

Francis Alys’ 1997 film Paradox of Praxis was showing at the Tate this summer. The film follows him pushing him a huge block of ice round the streets of Mexico city near his studio as it gets slowly smaller until it has completely disappeared.  The film is sub-titled ‘sometimes doing something leads to nothing’.

The Tate write up says this is ‘an idea which speaks to the frustrated efforts of everyday Mexico residents to improve their living conditions’. 

The title of this piece intrigues me.    A Paradox, is something which contains an inherent contradiction.  I have downloaded a few entries from the wikipedia page on Praxis:

In Ancient Greek the word praxis (πρᾶξις) referred to activity engaged in by free men.   

Hannah Arendt  calls “praxis” the highest and most important level of the active life. Thus, she argues that more philosophers need to engage in everyday political action or praxis, which she sees as the true realization of human freedom,.  According to Arendt, our capacity to analyze ideas, wrestle with them, and engage in active praxis is what makes us uniquely human.   

Tony Wilson describes praxis as “doing something, and then only afterwards, finding out why you did it”, which could be summed up as  ‘practise and reflection’. 

In the world of being an art student, I find the biggest block to making work is the thought ‘what is the point…. it won’t..’.    This idea of praxis is really important.

For this reason yesterday I went for a swim in my garden pond.

despite the fact it was very cramped and notmuch of me fitted in..



4 thoughts on “Alys – Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing

    • I have just read a quote from the Talmud: “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” Working out who we are seems at least a good starting point.

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