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July 30, 2022

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Algerian artist’s ‘Imperial Message’ probes wounds of present

ARTIST Adel Abdessemed probes the wounds of our present.

His exhibition, “An Imperial Message,” features around 40 artworks, among which more than 10 are newly created. They vary from drawing, video, sculpture, poetry, sound to installation.

Born in 1971 in Algeria, Abdessemed now lives and works in Paris. He began his artistic career at a very young age, producing works in Batna, Algiers, Lyon, Paris, New York, Berlin and once again in Paris.

Based on the artist’s previous performance art, some might think that his works are harsh and violent, but they would surprisingly find another tender and even poetic facet of him at this exhibition.

The music that pervades the fourth and fifth floors is Franz Schubert’s “The Homing Pigeon.” The lyrics are taken from Johann Gabriel Seidi’s poem. It was the last song written by Schubert. The video, which features a pigeon standing quietly on a metallic barrier under a dark background, is of the same title.

Contrast is an integral feature of his artworks. Visitors may find water and fire, darkness and light, silence and sound, elevation and descent, rawness and subtlety.

Some works might trigger uncomfortable feelings.

For example, “A Cat Passing in Between Us” is a video that directly faces the visitors and at the same time hides the access on the third floor gallery.

The video loop is a very short sequence showing a black cat stepping down the stairs in the dark. Seemingly that cat discretely escapes a space for another one. The eyes of the cat are unwittingly confronting those of the visitors.

The image of the black cat, plus the dim light and deep blue walls, pulls visitors into a subtle and secret experience that embraces night and discomfort.

Another impressive piece at the exhibition is the artist’s new series of charcoal drawings.

Entitled “Air,” the series features human body figures in various postures floating in the void of paper.

They are either upside down with their upper bodies straight and bent at the knees, or spread out their limbs to arduously touching upward.

The small, blackened body figure contrasts strongly with the large blank background, and it is hard to tell whether these people want to accept or escape their fate and death.


Exhibition info:

Date: Through September 11 (closed on Mondays), 10am-6pm

Venue: Rockbund Art Museum

Address: 20 Huqiu Rd


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