Iraqi-Finnish fine artist Adel Abidin is TMR’s featured artist for October 2023. This year Abidin celebrated his 50th birthday and was the fifth artist to win the coveted Ithra Prize, which comes with a $100,000 purse. Abidin explains, “My art uses various media such as videos, video installations, multimedia sculptures and sound based installations and photography to explore the issues of the contemporary world that we are living in. My main point of departure is always linked to my intention to explore the complex relationship between visual art and politics & identity. Using a sharp palette of irony and humour I find myself gravitated towards different social situations dealing with elusive experiences and cultural alienation.”
Abidin often travels back and forth between Helsinki and Amman. He says, “I use my cross-cultural background to create a distinct visual language often laced with sarcasm and paradox, while maintaining an ultimately humanistic approach. This sarcasm I use is nothing but a medium of provocation to serve the purpose of extending the mental borders of the artwork beyond the limits of the exhibition space. I am always interested in creating opportunities to prolong the discussions beyond my artwork by enabling the audience to convey mental elements from the work into their daily life.”
Abidin won the Ithra Prize for his wall installation ON, which explores the complexity of trying to capture events. The installation grew out of the artist’s research about the Zanj rebellion against the Abbassid Caliphate, which started in southern Iraq in 869 AD.
“As I delve into the intangible aspects of history, I am confronted with the challenge of scarce reliable archival sources,” Abidin told The National. “This challenge is especially present in the context of Arab history, where much remains shrouded in ambiguity, allowing for a broad range of interpretations and augmentations. In studying the Zanj rebellion, I find a captivating example of this complexity.”
Abidin’s Politically Correct series questions both political and correctness. “It presents political correctness in fragile form, that suggests the term political correctness can bend and even twist; it can be spelled and understood wrong. It may not be such a superpower, as it seems at first sight. And yet, we take it as a tool to manage minds and good behavior.”
Symphony is a tribute to Iraqi teenagers with “Emo” appearances; a Western trend that consists of tight jeans and long black or spiky hair- cuts, which covers half of the face. Those teenagers were stoned to death by religious extremists in Baghdad in 2012.
Relics, presents an open-ended debate into how facts and imaginative realities are represented, with an emphasis on the equation of war. By using the ancient bas-relief technique to deconstruct selected images of an army deployment from the internet. led to recomposing their physical and psychological aspects.
From Abidin’s Memorial series: “On the third day of the American bombardment of Baghdad in 1991, specificlly the bombardment of the Republic Bridge that’s located in the heart of the city of Baghdad, connecting the two banks of the Tigris River. With devastation and shock, I cycled there next day. As I approached the bridge, which had been broken off completely in two places, I saw a strange scene: A dead cow on one piece of the fallen bridge.”