Adel Abdessemed

‘Untitled’, 2014
CNC-machined polyurethane, graphite on 3D printed nylon, scalpel blades
140 × 125 × 90 cm

A dense plumage of thin scalpel blades covers the bodies of two men, one of whom, kneeling, is a self-portrait of the artist. The other man, holding a knife, is a portrait of the artist’s father. The heads of these polyurethane sculptures are molds, which is a significant detail for an “autobiographical” work since this kind of reproductive imprint is supposed to effectively eliminate the distance between an object and its representation. Meanwhile, the blade of the knife has proliferated everywhere, entirely covering the bodies in scalpel blades, lending a terrifically dream-like quality to this image of sacrificial aggression. As in Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac (1597–1598), which this work imitates, the depiction of the scene in mid-action obliges the beholder to imagine what follows. The threat resonates even further, given the many pictures of beheadings posted in the media by Islamic terrorists after Abdessemed began this piece. Here, however, the main issue is the son’s relationship to the father and the patriarchal power to kill, sustained by the simple act of keeping that murderous power in reserve, a threat that guarantees the son’s subjugation.

Giovanni Careri