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.
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.
Clemens von Wedemeyer
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.
- Chinese artist in suit made from raw meat (video)
Zhang Huan – My 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 portraits and landscapes 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.
- One of the most disgusting performance pieces ever made
Zhang Huan – 12 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.
- 20 tons of incense ash to create 5m statue
Zhang Huan – Sydney Buddha, left: Aluminium Buddha, 370x290x260cm, right: Ash Buddha, 350x480x290cm, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia, 2015
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 the prayers of those who usually burn the incense. To him, the ash sculptures represent 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.
- Whole face painted black in Zhang Huan's Family Tree
Zhang Huan – Family Tree, 2000
Family Tree is a performance piece by Chinese artist Zhang Huan. Three calligraphers wrote a combination of names known to Zhang Huan, personal stories, learned tales and random thoughts on Huan’s face.