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Adel Abdessemed and his "God is design"

His video "God is design" interlaces symbols of the 3 monotheist religions with human cell diagrams.
By Abdellah Karroum | Jan 2007

The exhibition "God is design" at L'appartement 22 shows just one artwork of the same name - a video projection in the main space. Access to L'appartement 22 is via a corridor where the visitor can read the title of the show. In the space of the video projection, the public can consult the artist's books ("Question nary", "The green book", "Global"…). The sound of the video is voluntarily very powerful in order to cover the noises of the surroundings. Indeed, the exhibition space is located right in the centre of Rabat, just opposite the parliament, where demonstrators regularly assemble waving slogans demanding rights, or giving voice against the war and some other Moroccan or international political actions.

"God is design" is an animated video, a bit more than four minutes long (4'08''), created from black and white drawings of ornamental motifs capturing the symbols of the three large monotheist religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) together with symbols from the diagram of the human cell, wrapping themselves around each other to the rhythm of inebriating music, edging on to a sonant hallucination. The video was realized in 2005, a few years after leaving New York due to the "unliveable" atmosphere set off by 9/11 (2001). The artist felt unwanted in this city because of the amalgam made by a large majority of Americans in considering that all Arabs, Muslims, and people from the Middle East, are high-power potential terrorists.

On the occasion of a meeting in Paris, Abdessemed not only speaks of art, he also expresses concern for worldwide problems: "In 2050 we will be nine billion, get prepared my friend" he throws in!

When the artist proposes a work, he doesn't treat the public like a target, but shares his experience, expresses his vision and his concept of the world. From the black screen, on which the artist projects interrelations between his works, to the Utopian project of building a space for free expression in Jerusalem, "Dazibao" (2006) seems to spread out in the mediatory space/time of the exhibition, making light or blurring any traces of the approach of the artist-philosopher. The black wall the artist uses for the weaving network of his exhibitions enables us to visualize the interconnection between the works and give them a philosophical body. From this dark and mysterious zone, works with fire, soil and other immaterial realizations emerge. The keys to understand Abdessemed's work are held in eyes liberated from formal prejudice. Art is an experience that leaves only confounded traces.

The method employed by Adel Abdessemed for his film "God is design" is admittedly based on the notion of interlace design but developed through the practice of critical philosophy. The artist foresees the future of the world and experiments with "Nuclear Poetry" in which the sublimed signs of the three monotheist religions are set in correspondence with representations of human body cells. The sound reel of the video, composed on commission by the artist Silvia Ocougne, is a poetic collision of musical phrases evoking the infinite possibilities of chance encounter.

The approach via interconnection of references used by the artist in this video is already to be found in "MohammedKarlPolpot" (1999), one of Abdessemed's emblematic works where he claims a multiple state of existence, a choice of mobility together with an alertness for the state of the world and its connecting parts.

Adel Abdessemed left Algeria in 1994 by political choice. "When there is no peace an quiet at home, you have to go somewhere else, otherwise it is the death of your soul. The essential thing is to act, to fight, and to create in order to transform the world." He is an artist who is demanding and generous. The artist draws the subjects in his work from his personal history of exile and from his relationship with the world. In touching on taboos and interdictions, he is also "acting against the laws and morals" established to the sole end of restricting life. These art investment spaces are places of life and pleasure (street, bathroom, bar…). Since he has been back in Paris, Abdessemed has his studio in Rue Lemercier. He ordered six wild boar to that address, "The seven brothers" (2006), the seventh had run away. A cat devoured a rat on this very same pavement and enabled the video "Birth of love" (2006).

Abdessemed is a committed artist who goes to the limits of the legal and illegal in order to "burst the barriers". Morals are a "sensitive zone" touched by both the artist and the philosopher. Exile is therefore of a cultural nature.

Abdessemed creates a universe that integrates references to mythology and employs technologies, thereby totally liberating religion from its cultural origins. Man is fundamentally a nomad; his behaviour is to destroy artificial frontiers. The work is also about overcoming taboos and the crushing conventions reigning in the totalitarian and exclusive systems that are the political and policed heritages not lacking in our societies.

Abdessemed is an international and manifold artist, heroic like Ulysses. Each one of his works is a resolution, on the scale of both an aesthetic experience and a political proposition.


Abdellah Karroum

Independent curator and art critic. Founder/director of L'appartement 22 in Rabat, Morocco. Lives there and in Paris, France.

(From the French: Helen Adkins)

God is design. 2005
Video, 4' 08''

L'appartement 22
Rabat, Morocco
8 Aug. - 20 Oct. 2006
Curated by A. Karroum

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