Re-Enactments, 2000
Two channel video projection,
video transferred to DVD, 5:20 min., color, sound
Ed. of 4

'Real' - On 4 November I bought a 9mm Beretta in a gun shop on Palma Street. At ten past one I left the shop holding the loaded gun in my right hand, and started wandering downtown waiting for something to happen... Francis Alÿs
'Re-enactment' - On 4 November Francis asked me to meet him in a gun shop on Palma Street. I watched him buy a 9mm Beretta, load it and leave the shop holding the gun in his right hand. I trailed him with my Sony Handycam and filmed the following scenes. Rafael Ortega
The impulse behind 'Re-enactments' was to question the deceptive transparency of the documentation of action art. By presenting the video documentation of a spectacular action next to that of the exact same event staged later the same day, Alÿs and filmmaker Rafael Ortega were hoping to make the spectator aware of the ambiguities within documentary and fiction. Quite self-consciously, Alÿs decided on the nature of the action to be performed following the classic Aristotelian requisites for drama: the choice of a location (the urban centre), the introduction of an actor, the creation of a conflict (the acquisition of the gun), the unfolding of the drama (his walk on the street), the anxiety of the spectator (at his possible capture), and the climax that restored a semblance of order in the epilogue (his arrest by the police). However such concerns were overshadowed by the way the work explicitly provides evidence of the laxity of the Mexican police system, showing how easy it is to carry a gun in broad daylight and the impunity that allowed the artist to get away with an act characterised as a felony - not to mention the remarkable acting skills of the agents involved in the re-enactment. Despite the remorse the artist has since voiced on how the work reinforced the cliché of Mexico as a city where crime and judicial negligence are rampant, it is difficult to deny that the choice of this particular script anticipated the way public safety came to dominate the social and political debate within the country during the first decade of the twenty-first century.

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