In the studio
Adel Abdessemed
Constantine, Algeria

While other artists may produce work that is hygienic in its uttering of a critique, Adel Abdessemed’s oeuvre distinguishes itself by feeling conceptually graphic in its representation of violence.

Whether simplistic or not, Adel Abdessemed has experienced the violence apparent in his work growing up during the civil war in the 1990s in Algeria. For those of us who are fortunate enough to never have seen or felt atrocities, such images remain static. In the works of Abdessemed they become alive, graspable for the fraction of a second.

Violence is not an easy subject to be spoken about publicly. It is uncomfortable and hence often silenced, especially in large parts of the Western world for whom violent actions are performed and experienced by ‘the others’—at least in theory.

The artist, who has had a large retrospective of his work at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris in 2012, breaks this silence with deliberate provocation. Not for the sake of provocation alone, but because to having to live with violence silently is a provocation in itself. For Abdessemed, art is a vehicle to speak, or more to ‘cry’ as he defines it.

In French the word ‘crie’ isn’t easily translated to the English crying; it is a yell, a scream, a shout, a call, a crow, a bawl—a way to make loud noise. Every medium from sculpture, photography, video and painting to photography culminates in a climatic act.

His focus doesn’t rest on the calamities of war alone, equally or maybe even more important is the recurring violence and its normality in everyday life: the terror of states, ideologies, humans. Not always is the provocation received well, not always is the cry heard.

In a show at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008 he presented a video titled ‘Don’t Trust Me’ in which six animals are killed sharply by a single shot into the head. Although the real violence occurs in supermarkets and on plates, the show was shut down after vehement protests from animal rights activists.

‘It is not me who is violent. The world is violent.’ he said once as if to explain the obvious.

There is an extreme pertinence to his work, a richness of references that remains subtle while the evocative sharpness of discomfort cuts right through the viewer and, in this very moment, equips him with the possibility to sensually grasp what he hasn’t experienced. The sentence ‘We don’t need hope, what we need is truth.’ explains the intentions behind each of Abdessemed’s staged acts.

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Works for sale of Adel Abdessemed

Adel Abdessemed

Forbidden Colours, 2018