EXIT, one of two site-specific works by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed (b. 1971, Constantine, Algeria) commissioned as part of an inaugural city-wide contemporary art exhibition staged in Beppu, Japan. 

Adel Abdessemed is a prominent figure of the international art scene. From drawing to video, from sculpture to installation, Adel probes in the wounds of our present. The Algerian-born, Paris-based Abdessemed works within a wide range of media (drawing, video, photography, performance, and installation), transforming everyday materials and images into unexpected, charged, and sometimes shocking artistic declarations. He pulls freely from myriad sources – personal, social, and political to create a visual language that is simultaneously rich and economical, sensitive and controversial, radical and mundane. Many situations created by Abdessemed are based on singular and deliberate actions, or, as he calls them, acts, which are testified, more than documented, with videos and photographs, and are often later juxtaposed with a sculptural remainder from the action itself.

Adel Abdessemed, Exit, 2009.  © Adel Abdessemed. Courtesy Beppu Project and David Zwirner Gallery, New York

EXIT takes language as its object. It affects a simple change of letter in the lighted signs widely used to indicate a way out: exit becomes exil (“exile” in French). It plays on the sign’s status of symbol, creating another word/image whose slight difference from the original triggers surprise. The resulting work is placed at the entrance of an exhibition venue, where it marks a line to be crossed. The word “exile” alludes to the artist himself, forced to leave Algeria in 1994, while the association with “exit” signs also evokes the act of crossing borders, a liberating act central to Abdessemed’s art. 

Adel Abdessemed was born in 1971 in Constantine, Algeria and moved to Paris in 1994 during a time of civil strife and political repression in Algeria. He is currently based in New York. His work has also been presented at four Venice Biennales (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015), where he received the Benesse Prize (2007), at two Biennales in Istanbul (2007, 2017), and in the Biennales of Havana (2009), Gwangju (2008), Lyon (2007), and São Paulo (2006). In 2010, he participated in the first Triennale in Aichi, in 2017 at the Triennale of Milan and at the Triennale Oku- Noto in Suzu (Japan). In 2018 he participated at the Triennale Echigo-Tsumari Art. On the same year, he also took part in the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, where he exhibited a series of photographs and sculptures curated by Jean Nouvel. In 2015 he directed the scenography and light of Retour à Berratham, during the Avignon Festival, for the choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. In 2016, he was invited to draw the poster for the Avignon Festival and to create his project Surfaces. At the same time, the organisation Bold Tendencies commissioned the work Bristow as part of its artistic program in Peckham (London). The artist is represented by David Zwirner Gallery, New York.
Commissioned by Beppu Project NPO, Jun’ya Yamaide, CEO and Takashi Serizawa, P3 art and environment, Tokyo. Special thanks to David Zwirner Gallery, New York.