Adel Abdessemed

‘Habibi’, 2003,
resin, fiberglass, polystyrene, and airplane engine turbine
overall length: 2100 cm

Habibi is a large installation composed of a seventeen-meter-long skeleton hovering in space—flat on its belly, arms extended—and the metal turbine blade of an airplane engine placed behind the skeleton’s feet. This work is steeped in irony and semantic shifts. The allegorical theme of a vanitas still-life, with its clear reference to death, is combined with a private dimension evoked by the title: habibi in Arabic is an affectionate term for a loved one (“my darling” in English). Similarly, the skeleton, although imposing and heavily charged iconographically, is de-dramatized by its reclining pose and by the presence of the propeller, which imparts a dynamism to the whole. Abdessemed has described Habibi as a self-portrait, in his favorite position for thinking, a physical position that incarnates “horizontal” thinking associated with the idea of flying or hovering.

Angela Megoni