By Dorota Kozinska

Abdessemed, a Franco-Algerian artist chose this city for his project with great forethought. "This Canada, like Montreal, is a voice for tolerance: our city was a safe haven in the past and today has been designated a sanctuary city. Surrounded on all sides by the military, we become at once witnesses and targets."

Conflict is meant to be an immersive experience and the visitor soon finds out why. Dozens of drawings of life-sized military figures with their guns drawn seem to watch our every step. The viewer is in the middle of an invisible conflict, a pawn in someone else's game, unwittingly in peril.

To further accentuate the sensation of war and its horrifying aftermath, Abdessemed created especially for the show a drawing after Nick Ut's famous photograph from the Vietnam War of the so-called "Napalm Girl". Cri (2007) is as heart wrenching as the original, perhaps even more for being recreated by a hand, drawing from the heart not memory.

"I don't write, I scream." the artist says, as he questions the violence and the symbolism of war images.

As Part of the Year for Peace at the MMFA, the project heralds myriad activities and exhibitions to take place throughout the year. It follows the 2016 inauguration of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace, named for its benefactors, the Museum patrons and survivors of war who sought asylum in Canada, just like Kim Phuc, the girl in the photo. Today she works as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

Adel Abdessemed
Conflict(lien externe)
Contemporary Art Square Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion – Level S2
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Sherbrooke St W
Montreal, QC
Until May 7, 2017

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View of Adel Abdessemed’s installation Conflict. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo Denis Farley.

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Adel Abdessemed (born in 1971), Soldaten, 2013, black chalk on paper, 184 x 130 cm (approx.). Courtesy of the Artist and Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv – Brussels. © Adel Abdessemed / SODRAC (2017). Photo © Marc Domage.

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Adel Abdessemed (born in 1971), Cri, 2017, black chalk on paper, 184 x 130 cm (approx.). Private collection. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest.

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(From left to right) Adel Abdessemed, artist; Kim Phuc, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador; and Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, February 16, 2017. Photo Sébastien Roy.