Adel Abidin at the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial, Melbourne, Australia

Abidin will take part in the National Gallery of Victoria Triennial which opens on 15 December 2017 and continues until 15 April 2018 at the NGV International. The triennial will feature the works of over one hundred artists and designers from thirty-two countries, surveying the world of art and design across cultures, scales geographies and perspectives.


The artist will present Cover-Up! (2014) and Three Love Songs (2010), two video works that are in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria museum.


Cover-Up! was produced in August 2014 as part of a larger commission from the annual Flow Festival, Helsinki where Abidin was named Artist of the Year. Cover-Up!  is a video installation of a seductive figure in close up. Filmed in black and white, the project replicates the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe in a white dress standing above a subway grating, a scene from the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. Replacing Monroe with an Arab man in a ‘Dishdasha’, Abidin plays with our assumptions on attractiveness, the art of seduction and propriety. The title, which can be read in a number of ways, comments on the hypocrisy rife in contemporary society, mistakes and bad decisions that are hidden, but hinting that their exposure is all too easy.


Three Love Songs explores the multiple ways to use and manipulate images to create juxtapositions of meanings from the mundane to the extreme. This piece examines terror and love, and how façades are played through song, specifically Iraqi songs that were commissioned by Saddam Hussein, used to glorify the regime during the decades of his rule.


The installation syncs three stylized music videos (lounge, jazz and pop) that each features an archetypal western chanteuse: young, blonde, and seductive. Each video’s dramatic “look” creates a different atmosphere but the songs dedicated to Saddam Hussein tie them together. The lyrics are sung by the performers in Arabic (Iraqi dialect) and are subtitled in English and Arabic. The singers do not know what they are singing about, but they are directed to perform (though voice and gesture) as though the songs were traditional, passionate love songs. It is this uncomfortable juxtaposition – between the lush visual romanticism and the harsh meaning of the lyrics, between the seduction of the performer and comprehension of the viewer – that forms the main conceptual element of this work.

December 5, 2017