In Alÿs’s Rehearsal series, the musical score is the script for the image. Rehearsal I depicts a red Volkswagen Beetle tirelessly trying—and failing—to ascend a hill on the United States–Mexico border. The driver listened to a recording of a brass band rehearsing and followed these instructions: when the musicians are playing, go uphill; when the musicians lose track and stop, stop; when the musicians are tuning their instruments and chatting, go downhill. The artist uses the concept of rehearsal to render what he describes as Latin America’s “different time structure.” Politics of Rehearsal is a metaphor for Mexico’s ambiguous affair with modernity, in which it is forever approaching yet always delaying the moment of consummation. The video—with voiceover commentary by the critic Cuauhtémoc Medina, Alÿs’s frequent collaborator—looks to the origins of the “development” discourse (in United States president Harry Truman’s inaugural address of 1949) and its impact since. In his speech Truman insisted that it is the United States’ responsibility to share its technological knowledge with economically “underdeveloped” nations.
Gallery label from Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception, May 8–August 1, 2011.