This article places the work of Mexico City-based artist Francis Alÿs in dialogue with contemporary technologies of spatial production. Concretely, I propose that through his engagement with the ways space is produced and delineated today, Alÿs’s works comprise cognitive maps of the present, in Fredric Jameson’s sense of this term: aids for understanding our place in the world of economic production. I argue this point by examining Alÿs’s deployment of two visual tropes: ephemerality and participation. Both are central to his aesthetics, and they are also central to the operations of the high-tech mapping technologies that exemplify the production of space today. This understanding of Alÿs’s work thus comprises a cartographic reading in two senses of the term. On the one hand, I read him in dialogue with the actual technologies of mapping that condition our spatial situation today, and on the other, I posit that the resultant reading helps us understand the relationship between digital and analogue technologies in a way that cognitively maps our situation in the contemporary world.


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pp. 387-408
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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