Still from Francis Alÿs’s Children’s Games #19: Haram Soccer, Mosul, Iraq, August 2017.

Francis Alÿs to Represent Belgium at 2022 Venice Biennale

Francis Alÿs has been selected to represent Belgium at the fifty-ninth edition of the Venice Biennale, which has been pushed back to 2022. The pavilion will be curated by Hilde Teerlinck of the Han Nefkens Foundation in Barcelona. Alÿs and Teerlinck’s proposal for the country’s contribution to the biennial centers on new and existing work developed from his 2017 video Children’s Games #19: Haram Soccer, which features young boys playing a game that is banned in areas controlled by the Islamic State.

The Antwerp-born, Mexico City–based artist’s works have previously been included in the biennial’s main exhibition in 1999, 2001, and 2007. The 2022 pavilion presentation will incorporate work created during a period of time the artist spent in Northern Iraq in 2016 at the invitation of the Ruya Foundation. Commenting on the nine days that he was embedded in the Kurdish Army on the front lines in Mosul, the artist said, “There is something peculiar about the times we live in, and with them, a different expectation of the artist’s role. When the structure of a society collapses, when politicians and media have lost credit and terror invades daily life, society turns toward culture in pursuit of answers.”

Alÿs was selected for the prestigious commission from a shortlist that consisted of six artists, including choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, painter Kasper Bosmans, and filmmaker Sarah Vanhee. Remarking on Alÿs’s practice, a jury consisting of Frank Benijts, Hicham Khalidi, Zeynep Kubat, Jozefien Van Beek, and Sofie Van de Velde, said, “Alÿs’s themes are universal and current, translated into a visual language that is political and at the same time accessible to everyone.”