Franco-Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed’s immersive installation features a group of 31 black chalk drawings of life-sized military figures with their guns drawn, surrounding visitors on all sides. Another drawing, Cri (2007), after Nick Ut’s famous photograph from the Vietnam War of the so-called “Napalm Girl,” was created by the artist especially for this project.
These exceptionally powerful graphic works by Abdessemed question violence and the symbolism of war images. The artist conjures from our memories an iconic photograph and allies himself with civilian victims of war and refugees. “I don’t talk, I don’t write, I scream,” he declared.
This installation is part the Year for Peace at the Museum, a vast programme of activities and exhibitions launched in November 2016 following the inauguration of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace. The fifth pavilion in the Museum complex, it was named after Michal and Renata Hornstein, major Museum patrons and Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Canada, land of asylum, just like Kim Phuc, the “Napalm Girl.” Today, Ms. Phuc works as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director General and Chief Curator, explained: “This message of peace is a vital one, especially when the plight of refugees becomes a world-wide epidemic. Canada, like Montreal, is a voice for tolerance: our city has been 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.”
I am grateful to be here to help celebrate this museum, which will educate through art for generations to come. Art reminds us we cannot forget the past, but we can change the future,” declared Kim Phuc during the exhibition opening on February 16.
This project has received the support of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who conferred on Montreal the official status of sanctuary city on February 20, as well that of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage.