Adel Abdessemed is a contemporary artist who was born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria. Aware of his artistic call since a young age, he attended the École Régionale des Beaux-Arts in Batna but he was forced to abruptly interrupt his studies due to the assassination of the dean and his son inside the school, a crime connected to the Algerian Civil War in 1994. He later moved to France, where he attended the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Lyon and then worked in the Cité Internationale Des Arts in Paris.
The violence of the years in Algeria shaped Abdessemed’s approach to art: he focuses on the personal and collective trauma of living through the conflict, by meditating on the cruelty he witnessed in Algeria. His production consistently tackles extremist violence, human sacrifice, universal brutality, and the displacing alienation triggered by war. He works with these themes acknowledging their truest meaning and actively intervenes on them by creating visual tension in his artworks, in the hope of triggering a sense of resistance against violence through art.
His installations – made with a variety of media, such as animation, performance, sculpture, and drawing – are a clear effort in not allowing violence to be overlooked by the masses; Abdessemed’s 2008 show at San Francisco Art was closed within two weeks after the opening, as it stirred outrage in the audience and drew death threats in response to videos – recorded at a Mexican farm – of animals being bludgeoned. Although he’s known as French art’s enfant terrible, Abdessemed doesn’t portray violence with the sole purpose of provoking – rather, his artworks are meant to pull the audience out of their comfort zone, in an attempt to pierce their numbness towards cruelty.
In a society where multiple news outlets consistently report about war and death, and the victims are reduced from people to numbers, Abdessemed fights the alienation towards war with the hope to create a new awareness through unsettlement – in his words: “As artists, we must generate tensions for something very positive and extraordinary to come out […] if we don’t put our finger on a problem, how will it get proper attention?”
Adel Abdessemed exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art PS1 – New York (2001, 2007 – 2008) The Common Guild, Glasgow – Scotland (2008), had a solo show at the Pompidou Center – Paris (2012 – 13), he also majorly exhibited at the Venice Biennale in (2015) and is currently exhibiting at the Musée D’Art Contemporain de Lyon (March – July 2018).
He currently lives and works in London.