Adel Abdessemed
Trust Me

‘Don’t Trust Me’, 2007,
6 videos on 6 monitors, 2 sec. each (loop), color, sound
dimensions vary (aspect ratio 16:9)

A goat, a lamb, a pig, a horse, a cow, and a fawn are slaughtered with a club. The very brief video recordings of each slaughter are edited in a loop. Every animal is tethered to the same brick wall before collapsing from a hammer blow to the skull. This work has given rise to polemics that sometimes led to the temporary or even permanent closure of the exhibition in which it appeared (such as at the San Francisco Art Institute, where the show was closed several days after it opened on March 20, 2008, and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, where the opening was delayed by legal proceedings initiated by animal-rights advocates but dismissed by the attorney general of Piedmont). The work shows techniques still practiced in Mexico, where the images were recorded in a working slaughterhouse. The artist thus evokes the act of killing behind the marketing of meat, which sometimes entails archaic methods such as a hammer blow.

This primal scene of slaughter embodies a picture of primitive, blind violence that is presented to the unprepared beholder, unshielded by any emotional filter. The only sound is the thud of the hammer on the animal’s head. These brief shots, through the animal’s inertia and powerlessness (a fragility instantly recognizable in the heart-rending shot of the fawn) thereby manage to visually encapsulate the traumatic core of all forms of power, a power exercised in primordial, radical, asymmetrical fashion. This reflection on power is no mere abstract stance, however, but was fueled by the artist’s direct experience of the violence carried out by fundamentalists of the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), including the assassination of the director (and his son) of the École supérieure des beaux-arts in Algiers, where Abdessemed was a young student.

Angela Megoni