Adel Abdessemed
Adel Abdessemed
Je suis innocent

‘Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent’, 2012
238 × 186 × 6 cm (with frame)

This photograph served as the poster image for the large survey of Adel Abdessemed’s work hosted by the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2012. It shows the artist, in flames, standing in front of the door to his Paris studio. Eyes half closed, Abdessemed crosses his arms on his chest and submits to the flames that rise from the ground up the length of his body—one wave-like flame even licks his face. Titled Adel Abdessemed Je suis innocent (“Adel Abdessemed I am innocent”), the picture immediately startles the beholder: What “innocence” is being invoked in this strange self-immolation? Abdessemed’s works often involve imagery alluding to recent events, but they also evoke older, indeed archaic figures. In Christian art, flames devour the souls in Purgatory yet flames cannot destroy our artist, for he is innocent. The ambiguous photo, however, also asserts something quite different: the man in flames has come to spread the fire that is already extending beyond him onto the pavement and into the street.

Giovanni Careri