Adel Abidin

The Artist and his Work

Adel Abidin
Born in 1973 in Bagdad, Iraq, he lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.

Irony and solemnity “Humour and irony are at the core of my language to show the cogs of alienation and exclusion”, summarizes Adel Abidin. One could also add satire and parody to qualify a work which refuses any reassuring position for the spectator. “” is not the artist’s Internet site but that of his fake travel agency specialized in war tourism and displayed during six months in the Nordic pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 2007. The “tourist” attracted by the concept of a trip in Bagdad where the only sightseeing is witnessing the horrors of war, and images of soldiers calmly profiting within a presidential palace. The tourist is explained all potential dangers of the trip, like rules at the beginning of a video game or a shooting safari.

“Abidin Travels – Welcome to Baghdad” is a violent and momentous installation in this artist’s career. Adel Abidin followed management and art studies in Bagdad (1990-2000) supplemented by a degree from the Helsinki Academy of Fine Arts in 2005. He settled in Finland in 2000 and since, exhibits his installation and videos throughout the world (MOCA in Taipei, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, Rencontres internationales in Paris-Berlin) focusing on the notion of distance. A distance he experiences daily as an exile faced with new cultural codes (video Crazy Days, 2005), and where solemnity rivalries with irony.

Face to face and immersion
His works exhibited at the MAC/VAL in 2008 are definitely consumed by solemnity and empathy: Alyaa, Vacuum and Plan B. These three installations with videos propose the spectator a genuine physical, possibly claustrophobic, experience. Alyaa, a tribute to a young woman he knew at the University of Bagdad before being locked up by her family and married by force, is far from being a mere glimpse at imprisonment. It’s within a confined space, an enclosed box with 10 identical doors that the spectator perceives this young woman scratching on a window, a two-way mirror. A face-to-face based on the illusion of Alyaa’s presence, a video-projected image. This one-on-one becomes a mise-en-abyme when the spectator discovers, when looking through a peephole, another video, that of a naked woman trying to exit from a closed space.
The spectator is invited to participate in this spatial and temporal experience in the installation Vacuum, where after walking on a fragile surface of cracked safety glass (making the noise of ice breaking), you come face to face with a video screen. The absurdly extravagant and futile action of the artist slowly vacuuming snow over a wide deserted area symbolizes his battle against the Finish climate which he struggles to get used to …. a vacuum cleaner – here Adel Abidin’s practical, patient and pretty useless answer to his new life and new work conditions.
His third installation, Plan B, is an attempt to overcome the singularity and endless obstacles of his daily life, again proposing the intrusion of household items where they don’t belong. The Museum floor is curtained with mattresses, and it’s these same personal and familiar objects, these bits of urban trash, which are spread out and sawed-up in a saw-mill, an operation filmed from one standpoint and projected on a large screen (17x6m). Adel Abidin presents the harshness of the sawmill, its objects made of wood and metal, and the aggressive cutting and sawing operations which are so obviously in juxtaposition to the softness and familiarity of mattresses and the emptiness of contours. A home away from home, an uncomfortable upheaval which the artist is, once again, willing to experiment.