Belgium born Francis Alÿs (b.1959) lives and works in Mexico City and has a rich history in creating scenes merely by letting them play themselves out around a certain circumstance. He illustrates context in a sort of slow rhythmical manner, where human concepts and a sort of relationship of words and story develop without being said. All commentary being developed by the action of witnessing the act, conclusions forming in an incidental manner.
In this case Alÿs quietly films children as they seem to innocently play. Imbued with unbridled enthusiasm, the children engage in a game of their choice ranging from driftwood guns in Baja, to marbles in Jordan, and elastics in France. The most miraculous part about each of these short games, some no longer than 3 minutes, is the way each of the small videos has an almost surreal quality to them. Mainly we are in the role of the viewer, however due to the honest portrayal of the children and the clean unobstructed manner in which the children are filmed, we feel almost a participant. The game of rolling a metal hoop in Afghanistan becomes our game, our obstacles, our street. Kicking a plastic soda bottle filled with pop on the rolling hill of a busy city street in Mexico fulfills objectives of no longer just a child, but an adult who can relate to the willingness of his own self at one point, as someone who could be entertained by what objects were readily available no matter what the given circumstance. Or perhaps the resilience and practical reactions (in a very non-boring sort of way), of the children strikes a new cord.
I have sat and watched Alÿs’s recordings with my own children as they smile. The way these children are engaged and determined to have fun and enjoy themselves regardless of the stakes of the game, the materials involved, or dress of those playing, and the advantageous or what some would term disadvantageous locations of the player, is a completely natural and unforced type of good feeling. All the children want to do is find a way to use the broken down buildings and car graveyards, some elastic and a chair, a simple wall or unsurmountable ocean as their playground! Truly a cool thing. Enjoy Francis Alÿs’s Children’s Games here.