The MAC’s will be opening its new calendar of exhibitions in 2018 with a leading French artist on the contemporary art scene, Adel Abdessemed. Famous for his hard-hitting works (such as his giant “coup de tête” (“Headbutt”) sculpture of Zidane during the World Cup final in 2006), the artist will present a “manifesto exhibition” at Grand-Hornu consisting mainly of new, site-specific works. Born in 1971 in Constantine, the Franco-Algerian artist first studied at the Fine Arts College in Algiers, then left Algeria in 1995 to continue his studies in France, at the Fine Arts College in Lyon, before moving on to New York, where he started exhibiting his work in 2001. An eternal exile, he currently lives and works in Paris.
In his work, Adel Abdessemed transposes the suffering of the world, with all of its violence, terror and hypocrisy. If the artist shakes us up, it is certainly not to fill us with despair, but to remind us that even though we belong to the world and tragically find ourselves “stakeholders” in its cruelty, we still have the freedom to choose between morbid disillusionment and the joy of being alive. If his work touches us and strikes our imagination, this is also because it offers us poetic images without rejecting classical forms or direct figuration, to present the violence of the contemporary world in the form of allegories which we are free to interpret and also judge. The exhibition at Grand-Hornu is called Otchi Tchiornie (“Black Eyes”, in reference to a song from the repertoire of the Red Army Choir) and was designed by the artist as a “manifesto” against barbarity and to promote freedom, with the insolence of someone who, like the troubadour, “dances on embers”. Traversed by a red carpet (the symbol of official power) which the artist has chosen to install through its entire length, the exhibition opens with the absurd but revelatory image of our helplessness in the face of war, a “suicide pigeon” perched on a public bench on which we would no doubt think twice before sitting. Likewise, exploiting the poetic antagonism of coal (whose lightweight quality contrasts with its blackness), which has forged the contradictory history of Grand-Hornu (between utopia and misery), the exhibition goes on to present two emblematic works in this eminently characteristic “lightweight blackness”: Soldaten, an impressive gallery of charcoal drawings, representing uniformed soldiers based on images found on the internet, and Otchi Tchiornie, the silhouettes sculpted from calcinated wood of members of the Red Army Choir, in reference to their deaths in a plane crash in 2016 whilst en route to Syria. The show ends with a poetic, energetic evocation of “The Cave”, a sourat from the Koran, through which Adel Abdessemed revisits a myth shared by both Christianity and Islam.
Press review :
Dans le cadre d’EXTRA, avec le soutien de l’Institut Français et du Service de coopération et d’action culturelle de l’Ambassade de France en Belgique