Adel Abdessemed’s work focuses on the cruelty and brutality of the world. It is charged with the urgent questions confronting contemporary society and it is suffused with deep philosophical learning. The French-Algerian artist uses a range of different methods—film, sculpture, drawing, installation—all of which reveal a formidable expressive power, and many of which feature the artist’s direct physical exploration of his subject matter, sometimes at his own personal
risk. His work Talk Is Cheap (2006) builds on the gestures of American artists of the nineteen-seventies, such as Bruce Nauman and Chris Burden. It is part of a series of street actions in which Abdessemed focuses on objects (a lemon, a Coca-Cola can, a microphone, all of which he crushes violently underfoot), people (the artist, his mother, his wife), and wild animals (a lion, a wild boar). Adel Abdessemed je suis innocent also takes place in the street. It is a work in
which memories of obscurantist religious practices from the Middle Ages, such as ordeal by fire or the judgment of God, are set against a clear contemporary reference—in this case the selfimmolation that sparked the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring in 2010.