With the Conflux Festival recently taking place in New York City, and the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art currently happening here in Toronto, I can’t help but note the incredible rise in popularity that location-based performance art and psychogeographic art interventions have enjoyed over the last decade.
I’m also reminded of the first project I ever came across that introduced me to the world of dérive-inspired performance art and how it remains to be one of my favourite pieces today. Francis Alys’ Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing was shot in 1997 and involves the artist pushing an ice block through the streets of Mexico City until it melts into nothing. His task at the beginning is laborious and sisyphean, as he struggles to move the imposing weight along the pavement in what seems to be a futile performance. By the end his act has become playful as he delicately kicks the small ice stone across the sidewalk, akin to a child entertaining himself by kicking a pebble on his walk home from school.
Perhaps the most refreshing part of the piece, aside from the poetic simplicity of it all, is its complete analog nature. Nowadays the world of psychogeographic art is focused on the re-jigging of digital communication technologies for alternative urban explorations. What Francis Alys shows us is that sometimes all you need is an ice block to experience your city in a different way.