The Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing) is a performance and conceptual work of art by the artist, Francis Alÿs. The work is set in Mexico City, Mexico in 1977 and is four minutes and fifty-nine seconds long. This video shows Francis Alÿs pushing a large block of ice around the city, until it has melted into nothing.
The introduction of the film shows the alternative name of the work, Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing, in a way that seems to set the viewer up for what they are watching. As the video progresses the viewer is confronted with images of dirty sidewalks with snail-like trails of water all over the city. It is very obvious to the viewer that the artist is working very hard to push this block around, both by his posture and from the red, obviously chilled hands of the man. As the video progresses, the ice melts and the man strains even more to bend to push the smaller block of ice. Once the ice has melted enough, the man can push the block with his feet and smoke a cigarette. The block of ice finally gets small enough to kick around like a ball and eventually melts. The final scene is of a puddle of water on a dirty sidewalk and a group of kids smiling in response to the puddle. The ending leaves the viewer dissatisfied because they do not get to see the ice turn into the puddle. The video just goes straight to a shot of the puddle and then ends. Alÿs planned to have a sequel created entitled Sometimes Doing Nothing Leads to Something, but never created the script for it. Some critics believe the fact that he never created this piece inspires more work based on the idea of efficiency.
This work fits well in Alÿs’ general body of work because of the common theme of wandering, labor, and location. Many of Alÿs’ works involve him wandering around cities, inserting his body, one or two other objects, and a general idea into the scene and lettings whatever happens happen. Alÿs also generally performs his work in Mexico or Mexico City because it is his home and where he has a lot of ties, both personally and in interest in politics and social aspects. Finally, this work is similar to other work because of the use of human labor as a medium for the work. Alÿs has had other work, which involves his body completing physical labor, but also large groups of other people performing in a physical way. An example of this would be “When Faith Moves Mountains,” where a group of 500 college students attempted to move a sand mound, one shovelful at a time.
This work of art seems to explore an attempt at something, but an end result of nothingness. This research will explore the relationship between politics in Mexico and Mexico City, with Alÿs’ final work of The Paradox of Praxis. This work puts into practice “the deep modern conviction that hard work brings tangible benefits.” This paper proposes that The Paradox of Praxis 1 mirrors Mexican political culture up until Alÿs’ time. The two positions that will...