El Colector / The Collector, 1991
Photograph, chromalin, hand touched
43.5 x 42 cm, framed

'The Collector' is rightly considered a turning point in the making of Alÿs's work. Its inspiration comes from his postgraduate research, which investigated how, in the late Middle Ages, the eviction of animals from inside the city walls coincided with the birth of modernity. This prompted the emergence of a modern, restricted rationality developing as a science to control nascent urban life and to project an 'ideal' model of city planning. Years later in Mexico City, Alÿs conceived 'The Collector' as a means to hail street dogs and other wild urban fauna as heroes and metaphors of a widespread resistance to modernisation. It was also the defining moment of a whole methodology that deployed urban myths and rumours to affect the urban imaginary.
In 1990, Alÿs produced a magnetic 'dog0 that would attract nails, bottle caps, wire and other scraps of metal waste until they became like a second skin. Beyond alluding to the people who lived from recycling the garbage on the street, "The Collector" evoked the refusal of a whole urban population to accept the notion of public space as a mere site of circulation and trade. As Alÿs stated at the time, such an action-fable reclaimed the notion of the 'polis' as a space of conflicts, narratives and desires which involved the life of the community.

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