Alÿs’s motto for When Faith Moves Mountains is “Maximum effort, minimum result.” For this epic project the artist invited five hundred volunteers to walk up a sand dune on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, shoveling in unison, thus displacing the dune by a few inches. Demonstrating a ridiculous disproportion between an effort and its effect, the work is a metaphor for Latin American society, in which minimal reforms are achieved through massive collective efforts. Participants in the project gave their time for free, reversing conservative economic principles of efficiency and production. Embracing rumor, urban myth, and oral history, Alÿs aims to make works that continue beyond the duration of the event itself, through stories disseminated by word of mouth.
Gallery label from Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception, May 8–August 1, 2011.