Location One is proud to present Adel Abidin: I’m Sorry, the artist’s second solo exhibition in New York City. Born in Baghdad in 1973 and living in Helsinki since 2001, Abidin touches upon timely subjects such as fundamentalism, nationalism and religion. The artist engages in a variety of media, working primarily with video installations and short films. He assumes an ironic attitude in his deconstruction of prejudices and stereotypes. How can an Iraqi-born artist face the war with a sense of humor? That is exactly what his task entails.
The piece that gives the exhibition its title–a light box including a sound installation– comes from his experience as an Iraqi traveling in the U.S. In one of his trips, Abidin encountered people from diverse social backgrounds. Yet, surprisingly, every time he mentioned his nationality, the answer was invariably the same: I’m Sorry. Of course, this reply comes as a double entendre: Are people sorry for themselves, for feeling guilty for the infringements imposed by the U.S. on Iraq during the war, or are they sorry for the artist’s fate of being born in such place? The shift of position between audience and self is constantly present in his work.
Abidin’s witty criticism targets not only the U.S. invasion of Iraq but also Iraqi fundamentalists’ actions which serve as a pretext to justify the foreign hate against the country. In the video Jihad (2006), the artist explores a familiar scene shown in news coverage: a videotape of an Islamist terrorist with his covered face holding a Kalashnikov in his hands, reciting from the Koran a message of hate and death. Abidin appropriates the image subverting it. He places the fundamentalist against a painted background of a U.S. flag with its Stars and Stripes, reciting a verse from the Koran. Unexpectedly, he picks up an acoustic guitar and sings “This Land is Your Land.” The impact of the piece is immediate. What is the difference between beheading a Western man in front of the cameras and singing a nationalistic American anthem? Ultimately they can both function as U.S. propaganda pieces.
In the three-channel animation and video installation Memorial (2009) notions of fiction and reality are blurred. The piece is based on a real event witnessed by the artist when he was 17 years old, on the third day of the bombardments of Baghdad in 1991, when one of his favorite bridges was bombed. Next to the fallen bridge lay a dead cow. After almost 20 years, that scene still echoes in the artist’s mind as a reminder of the horrors of a city destroyed by the war.
Location One is extremely grateful to FRAME: Finnish Fund for Art Exchange, and The New York State Council on the Arts for making this exhibition and the artist’s residency possible.
About Adel Abidin: Abidin studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Baghdad and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki receiving a MFA in new media in 2005. He represented Finland in the 2007 Venice Biennale Nordic Pavilion with the internationally acclaimed piece Abidin Travels: Welcome to Baghdad. In 2010 he had a major solo exhibition at Kiasma, Helsinki’s Museum of Contemporary Art. His work is represented in major museum collections in Finland and has been featured in numerous exhibitions including On the Margins (2009, Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis); and the 2008 Cairo Biennale. He has held many solo exhibitions throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East.