Cuentos Patrioticos (Multiplication of the Sheep), 1997
Video installation, 25:42 min., loop, sound, color, postcard in frame, text/contextualisation of the piece (framed)
Ed. of 4

This fiction refers to a key event in the student protests against Mexico's government that occurred throughout 1968: on 28 August of that year, thousands of civil servants were brought to the Zócalo or main square of Mexico City to demonstrate in favour of the government, claiming that the students had defiled the national symbols by raising the Red and Black flag on the Zócalo pole. But in a spontaneous gesture of rebellion, the bureaucrats turned their backs on the official tribune and began to bleat like a vast flock of sheep, forcing the authorities to disperse them with armoured tanks and infantry. Three decades later, Alÿs commented on the way 'the whole political scene was frozen by a corrupted and dysfunctional political apparatus.' The apocalyptic image of these sheep invading public space brings to ind the final scene of Buñuel's "Exterminating Angel" (1961), where the animal presence in the public arena similarly suggests the return of the repressed and the impossibility of breaking a historic spell. In the video, Alÿs first leads a line of sheep around the Zócalo flagpole, then follows them, as if forecasting a hypothetical moment when the leader would become the follower. This video has become one of the iconic works of recent political art in Alÿs's host country, to the point of becoming part of the permanent display of the Memorial Museum to the 1968 events.

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