Adel Abdessemed

‘Bristow’, 2016,
Steel, bollard,
174 × 35 × 28 cm

The symbol of the pigeon is synonymous with metropolitan sprawl, both as a form of vermin and simply a nuisance that has come to symbolise life in the capital. But these animals are also instruments of communication, and were once extremely valuable in times of war due to their fierce intelligence and ability to deliver secret messages.

My interest in this pigeon is that he shares lots of things with me. It is not my brother, it is my cousin,” he says. By combining this everyday creature with symbols of makeshift terrorism and contemporary interaction, Abdessemed captures the current culture of fear mixed with the mundane everyday (especially considering that the title of the work is inspired by an Evening Standard comic strip that catalogued an insufferably monotonous existence). It embodies the unsettling, suspicious way we often treat our neighbours these days, whether that be next door or across the world.

For me pigeons are little people, an image to evoke the no-people, the people no-one sees,” the artist explains in a new book published to celebrate the ideas and inspiration surrounding this sculpture. “It is a sort of kamikaze… you see, in some places in the world, some children who are about 15 are blowing themselves [up], these children are moved to death: how is it possible? How come that someone is taking his life but also other people’s lives? Where does it come from? For how long has it been here? We’re no longer safe anywhere.

Abdessemed successfully distils this sense of terror in Bristow, but it also maintains a somewhat peaceful, meditative demeanour. It captures an underlying menace that bubbles under the surface of everyday life, permeating even the most positive spirit. “My actions are always set against the loss of memory and the indifference of oblivion,” he says, once again offering insight into his position as an artist who reflects the world around him as opposed to telling a singular narrative. “I am what I am in spite of myself. My condition as an artist and as a human being is to be a witness of my time.