Francis Alÿs works across a diverse range of media, often taking his point of departure from what he calls ‘minor events from everyday life’. The activity of walking occupies a particularly important place in Alÿs’s practice: in some works, walks involve large groups of people and careful planning, such as Guards 2004, in which 64 Coldstream Guards were commissioned to march around the ‘Square Mile’ of London. Other works, such as Sleepers II, result from solitary walks undertaken by the artist and incorporate his encounters along the way.
Generally executed in a city environment, Alÿs’s walks often reflect the cultural, economic and architectural conditions of urban life. New York, Los Angeles, London and Venice have all been venues for his walks, but it is his adopted home (since 1987) of Mexico City, and especially the area around his studio, that features most regularly. The 80 slides comprising the work Sleepers II document a city dweller indulging in a daytime siesta – a passive rebellion against the city’s demand for useful, productive activity.