The Venice Biennale 2022: Francis Alÿs, Hilde Teerlinck & Young Curators Program

For the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Francis Alÿs will present The Nature of the Game, an exhibition featuring a selection of films and a series of paintings in the Belgian Pavilion (Flanders). Working together with curator Hilde Teerlinck, almost all of Alÿs’ films will be a new production.

The Nature of the Game

For the exhibition in the Belgian Pavilion, Alÿs presents a selection of new short films shot since 2017 in Iraq, Hong Kong, Democratic Republic of Congo, Belgium, Mexico, to name a few.

Filming without interfering in children’s games, Alÿs reveals the hidden rules of playing, the ingenious interaction of the children with their environment, their deep complicity and their hopeful mood and joy. The installation in the Pavilion invites the visitor to walk through a labyrinth of screens as if they were in the middle of a global playground. The sound and image of the different films interact with each other, fragments forming together a whole, allegories translating the complexity of a sometimes harsh reality.

Children’s Game #10: Papalote, Balkh, Afghanistan, 2011, 4’13”, In collaboration with Félix Blume and Elena Pardo (© Courtesy the artist)

Observing, investigating and documenting human behaviour in urban life is a constant in Alÿs’ work. His films record, in an ethnographical way, both the power of cultural tradition and the free and autonomous attitudes of children, even in the most conflicted of situations. Over the last decade, children’s play has gained a central position in Alÿs’ practice, its recording becoming a way to understand the patterns by which people live. Although some of the games can be related to a specific geographic or cultural tradition, most of them are played all over the world. And thus, gives work its universal character.

“A young boy runs and falls on the ground while his leg slides over the earth of the street and the tip of his foot touches an imaginary ball, he scores a goal! Action comparable to the likes of Messi! You can feel the joy on the dry and dusty streets. But even if the ball isn’t there, he is there…”

Hilde Teerlinck about the work of Francis Alÿs

A series of small paintings covering a period from 1994 to 2021 accompanies the video presentation providing the context in which some of the films were made. From Kabul to Ciudad Juárez, from Jerusalem to Shanghai, they unfold Alÿs’ distinct poetic sensibility towards social and political concerns.

About the selection process

The selection was organized by Department Culture, Youth and Media of the Government of Flanders. The jury was composed of experts of the arts sector and consisted of Devrim Bayar (only first phase), Frank Benijts, Hicham Khalidi, Zeynep Kubat, Jozefien Van Beek, Sofie Van de Velde and Els Wuyts (only first phase) with Dirk De Wit as chairman and Stan Van Pelt as secretary.

Curator Hilde Teerlinck and artist Francis Alÿs have been selected to represent Belgium at the Venice Biennale 2022. The selection process was divided into two phases. During the first stage, the jury invited six curators to propose an exhibition concept for the Belgian Pavilion in Venice. In the second phase, after the presentation of each project, the jury made the final decision on June 12, 2020.

Francis Alÿs (Belgium, 1959) lives and works in Mexico City. Trained as an architect, Alÿs’ practice embraces multiple medias, from painting and drawing to video and animation. Hilde Teerlinck (Belgium, 1966) lives and works in Barcelona. She is the CEO – General Director for the Han Nefkens Foundation, which supports young video artists worldwide through production grants.

Young Curators Programme

The Young Curators Programme is a fellowship programme designed to provide opportunities for emerging Belgium-based curators working in the context of Flanders and Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. Fellows are granted approximately two-month-long terms in Venice. They are expected to conduct research while gaining experience and exposure by actively taking part in the life of the Belgian Pavilion at the International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

The following emerging curators will participate in the fellowship program of this year’s edition:

  • Jef Declercq
  • Camille Lemille
  • Arno Huygens
  • Badïa Larouci
  • Inès-Gabrielle Tourlet
  • Josue Aliendre Carvani

More information about the Belgium Pavillion

More information

Questions? Contact Stan Van Pelt of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Team at stan.vanpelt@vlaanderen.be or +32 2 553 68 98.