Adel Abdessemed, Algeria



Adel Abdessemed (b. 1971) left Algeria in 1994, and he considers his act a political one: When there is no peace at home, one must go elsewhere, otherwise the soul will die. The most important thing is to act, to resist, and to create in order to change the world. Abdessemed’s work draws from a multiplicity of media, including sculptural installation, video, animation, and photography. While some critics label his controversial pieces inappropriate due to their often graphically violent nature, the acts as Abdessemed calls his politically committed artworks, consistently interact with larger global realities. Abdessemed’s apparent rage permeates throughout, calling viewers’ attention to expressions of brutality and frequently referencing failed immigration policies, exile, and displacement. His work has been widely exhibited.

With Public Delivery Exhibition Utopian Days, 2014

  • Adel Abdessemed

The Sea, 2008
Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea

Utopian Days – Freedom was an exhibition at the Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, one of South Korea’s leading art museums, and later was shown at the Nowon Culture and Arts Center, Seoul, South Korea.

Adel Abdessemed
Lida Abdul
Phil America
Ivan Argote
Minerva Cuevas
Chto Delat?
Cyprien Gaillard
Yang-Ah Ham
Andre Hemer
Tehching Hsieh
Zhang Huan
Jani Leinonen
Klara Liden
Armando Lulaj
Matt McCormick
Filippo Minelli
Wang Qingsong
Andres Serrano
Manit Sriwanichpoom
Clemens von Wedemeyer
Kacey Wong
Xijing Men
He Yunchang


The Sea, 2008
10 sec (loop), color, sound
Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

Exhibited: The Sea, 2008

The sea, by Adel Abdessemed, is a video in which the artist faces the ocean on a rough slab of wood. A work that speaks about the role of the artist and questions of survival, The sea documents Abdessemed’s efforts to balance on his hands and knees on the wooden slab as it pitches with the ocean waves while he attempts to write the phrase Politically Correct.

From the blog

  • Iconic performance: Naked people stacked on top of each other

    Zhang Huan - To Add a Meter to an Anonymous Mountain, 1995, chromogenic print, 114.3 x 165.7 cm. (45 x 65 1/4 in.), edition of 15
    Zhang Huan – To Add a Meter to an Anonymous Mountain, 1995, chromogenic print, 114.3 x 165.7 cm. (45 x 65 1/4 in.), edition of 15

    Why is Zhang Huan important?

    Zhang Huang is one of the greatest and perhaps most popular controversial artists in contemporary China. He first started making a name for himself in the mid-1990s thanks to his performances, many of which have frequently been regarded as too punishing. Case in point, some of his more popular performances featured him naked and covered in insects.

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  • Zhang Huan in suit made from raw meat (video)

    Zhang Huan - My New York, 2002
    Zhang HuanMy New York, 2002, Whitney Biennial, New York


    Zhang Huan (张洹) is one of China’s best known conceptual and performance artists. In his sculptures and paintings, he references the history of his home country. As such, his pieces contain components of political, religious and intellectual messages as well as anonymous portrait and landscape scenes. Most of his works have mainly been used to promote Chinese culture and to spread a message with the intention of sanitizing the city. In particular, the issue of toilets is very dear to him and it has helped him create one of his most famous performance pieces.

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  • One of the most disgusting performance pieces ever made - Zhang Huan

    Zhang Huan - 12M2, 1994, documentation of a 40-minute performance
    Zhang Huan12 Square Meters, 1994, single channel video, 3min 2sec, documentation of a 40-minute performance


    Zhang Huan is no stranger to controversy. Having attended school at a time when China was undergoing a dramatic time in its history, Zhang learned a lot from the years of protests and demonstrations that would be staged in front of the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. As an avid fan of Avant-garde art, Zhang did not really have adequate resources at his disposal that would allow him to execute his artistic vision. As such, and not surprisingly, Zhang decided to change the way he expressed himself by adopting a more provocative and transgressive form of performance art, which was later photographed and documented.

    Zhang Huan - 12 Square Meters, 1994
    Zhang Huan12 Square Meters, 1994, documentation of a 40-minute performance

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  • Zhang Huan - Sydney Buddha, 2015, aluminum, 5m height, Carriageworks, Sydney, AustraliaZhang Huan used 20 tons of incense ash to create 5m statue
    Zhang Huan - Sydney Buddha, 2015, aluminum, 5m height, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia

    Zhang Huan - Sydney Buddha, 2015, aluminum, 5m height, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia 1
    Zhang HuanSydney Buddha, left: Aluminium Buddha, 370x290x260cm, right: Ash Buddha, 350x480x290cm, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia, 2015

    Zhang Huan’s Ash Buddha

    Zhang Huan, born in 1965, started out his career as a painter and then moved to performance art and then resorted back to painting. He is also a sculptor and photographer, but his main focus is being a performance artist. Throughout his career, he has made extensive use of ash and even built a few sculptures with it. Zhang says that he considers ash to be symbolic as it represents the hopes and prayers of those who usually burn the incense. To him, the ash sculptures represent a collective blessing, memory and soul of the Chinese people. The ash is collected from various temples in Shanghai, a time-consuming process that involves many hands.

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  • Whole face painted black in Zhang Huan's Family Tree

    Zhang Huan – Family Tree, 2000
    Zhang HuanFamily Tree, 2000

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