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A cry, all the work of Adel Abdessemed is a cry. A cry against the cruelty of the world and the ferocity of man. A cry pushed as one stabs space, with sabers or swords – of which he has made impressive (but very unimpressionistic) bouquets of Water Lilies (presented at the Venice Biennale in 2015). A shrill cry like the squealing of chickens being slaughtered – these chickens he staged, like death row inmates in flames, in a video installation that caused a scandal (during his exhibition at the MAC in Lyon in 2018). A sharp cry like the double-bladed military barbed wire – with which he sculpted, in particular, his Christ without a cross and his armies of chickens… “An active witness of history,” according to his own words, Adel Abdessemed (born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria) is an artist who thinks and composes “works that awaken the conscience.” 

So let’s go wake up our conscience at 87, rue du Temple, at the Continua gallery in Paris, where he proposes to watch the “short torch” of life flicker, like Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Like Ulysses braving the waves and the temptations embodied by the sweet song of the sirens, he appears, straight and impenetrable, at the prow of a ship in flames. Highly allegorical, like all the artist’s work, this Last video (2021) summons the power of myth while making the narrative scheme waver: filmed in a fixed shot, the image becomes haunting, as well as the deafening sound of the flames devouring the boat that soon appears to us as the mausoleum of all the tragedies that have bloodied the Mediterranean Sea…

Also, far from autofiction, the two little girls standing in front of a monumental bas-relief of burnt wood made of compacted war images: like us (standing behind them), they contemplate the spectacle of destruction… Television screen? Smoke screen? Funerary stele? However, Tonight No Man Will Sleep warns us with the effigy of our troublemaker carrying on his shoulder a globe on fire… while upstairs, an enormous metallic crusher hammers the implacable race of time. Threat, omen, warning? We cannot say that we were not aware of it…

Stéphanie Dulout

Jusquau 7 janvier
A la Galleria Continua – Paris – 87, rue du Temple, III –