Adel Abdessemed

‘Séparation’, 2006
90 × 103 cm

Séparation is one of a series of photographs taken in rue Lemercier in Paris, where Abdessemed lived. He exploited the public sphere as a site of encounters with the unexpected. In one photo, wild boar roam among the cars (Sept frères, 2006), in another human beings stroll with skeletons (Saturday, 2008), and in this one Abdessemed approaches a lion. The street became a site of creativity and productive energy in a way that prompted Abdessemed to refer to it as his “studio.”

In Séparation, the wild animal in the heart of the urban context embodies the radical, irreducible otherness of nature. A lion is impossible to control, dizzyingly outsized and full of immanent violence. Watched by a professional lion tamer, Abdessemed approaches the beast, entering its space. The photograph records the moment of this convergence, which represents no specific act but only a gesture charged with tension and potential, indicating an irreducible “separation” and extravagance. The face of the man in the background—that of the tamer observing the eventdisplays the attention of a spectator of a simultaneously fascinating and frightening occurrence. The presence of a wild beast in the city also evokes strange parallels between human history and natural history, between forms of life in human communities and the ineluctable, cruel laws of “nature.”

Angela Megoni