Untitled (Study for Gibraltar), 2007
Oil and encaustic on canvas on wood
21 x 16.5 cm (8 1/4 x 6 1/2 inch)

On 12 August 2008, a line of kids each carrying a boat made out of a shoe leaves Europe towards Morocco, while a second line of kids with shoeboats leaves Africa towards Spain. The two lines will meet on the horizon.
By avoiding the political border between the United States and Mexico and circumnavigating the Pacific rim in "The Loop" (1997), Alÿs manifested a certain evasion of the political agenda; five years later in "When Faith Moves Mountains", the mechanics of displacing a dune oscillated between poetry and politics; in 2004, for "The Green Line" in Jerusalem, he openly questioned the role and relevance of poetics in a situation of political conflict.
In August 2008, the Gibraltar project collapsed back into poetics as a means of skewing the political. It also marked a return to his exploration of the way children's fantasies relate to contemporary history. Where an actual attempt to close the Strait of Gibraltar by means of, say, a bridge of cargo ships, would have entailed moving from artistic practice into social engineering, the absence of a bridge in Alÿs's project became a means to produce a narrative where shoes become vessels and children turn into mythical giants.

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