The Qatar Museums Authority is standing by a controversial film on display at the Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf) following a number of complaints about its content. Titled “Printemps,” or “spring” in French, the video depicts several chickens screaming while appearing to be on fire as they hang against a wall.
The film, which can be viewed in part here, was produced by Algerian-born French artist Adel Abdessemed, as part of an homage to the suffering of those involved in the Arab Spring revolutions. It is part of the L’âge d’Or (The Golden Age) exhibition that is on display at Mathaf until Jan. 5, 2014.
Abdessemed is also the artist who created the controversial Zinedine Zidane headbutt statue that was recently installed on the Corniche.
On Twitter, Qataris have expressed shock and disgust at the film, saying it is distasteful and offensive.
@MathafModern This #terrorism how do u consider it as an #art it’s against human nature & #humanity What is the opinion of #PETA about it ?
— Noor Al-Mannai (@Noor_Almannai) October 13, 2013
#كاريكاتير السبت ١٢-١٠-٢٠١٣
"تم الحرق!!"#قطر #ماذا_يحدث_في_هيئة_المتاحف #Qatar #GCC pic.twitter.com/UMuZG94m60
— سعد المهندي (@S3d_78) October 11, 2013
(On the right: “these things were successfully burned down in the exhibition of the so-called Adel Abdessemed;” on the left, underneath the chickens, it says: “law, ethics, humanity and Islamic values.”)
Yesterday, rumors began circulating that the museum took down the video over the controversy.
At the Adel Abdulssemed L’age d’or exhibition in mathaf. They have turned off all the videos. Claiming it to be “technical difficulties”
— Shaima Sherif (@ShaimaSherif) October 12, 2013
But officials told Doha News today that the exhibition is still up. And Mathaf has been responding to the criticism online by explaining that the chickens are not actually being burned alive. In a Facebook post yesterday, the museum said:
“The artwork Printemps (Spring) by Adel Abdessemed is a FILM. It is an artistic constructed image. The artist uses violent images to denunciate violence.”
It has also been tweeting a photo of Abdessemed applying the same flammable gel to himself to show that his technique was not painful.
عادل عبد الصمد: انا بريء pic.twitter.com/cYIGJAdqjl
— Mathaf (@MathafModern) October 12, 2013
However, the curator of the Mathaf exhibition previously told news media that the artist did not plan to recreate the work because it was so violent.
Pier Luigi Tazzi added, as quoted by the Peninsula:
“He (Abdessemed) wants people to face violence, in a very brutal way. There is no aesthetic reason behind it. It’s not beautiful but you have to be confronted with it.”
Meanwhile, the Qatar Museums Authority has confirmed to Doha News that its Board of Trustees last week established a new committee to improve transparency and accountability in the organization.
QMA in focus
The move comes amid increasing criticism of the organization by some Qataris, who have alleged corruption and questioned whether public money is being squandered on the purchase of unnecessarily expensive artworks that does not stand in-line with local traditions or views of what is appropriate.
However, over the past few months QMA has been restructuring itself from a state-run organization into a “private entity for public good,” meaning it would no longer be subject to certain government regulations such as hiring and other processes and would operate under an endowment.
QMA has also been in the spotlight this month after unveiling artworks by iconic British artist Damien Hirst. Last week, “The Miraculous Journey,” 14 sculptures depicting the different stages of pregnancy from conception to birth were revealed at the yet-to-be-opened Sidra Medical and Research Center.
But because the art is located at an active construction site, QMA officials said it will be covered up on and off as they work out proper lighting and other factors.
Damien Hirst’s largest solo exhibition “Relics” also opened to the public last week at Al Riwaq exhibition hall, and is raising eyebrows for different exhibitions that remind visitors of the circle of life and death, including a shark encased in formaldehyde, diamond-encrusted skulls and maggots feeding on a severed cow’s head.
Have you seen any of the artworks? Thoughts?
What a punny headline.
Too true. We discussed alternatives, but “ruffles feathers” seemed to be a more accurate turn of phrase than the likes of “sparks controversy”.
Could have gone with ‘enflames passions’ or some such.
Adel Abdessemed sucks after he started making animal based art “ART” what he calls.
Ivan and Omar, puns galore !
Appears to be on fire? hah! Adel is a serious repeat offender! His past ‘art works’ or rather animal smut films depicting various animals being bludgeoned to death.
In fact, his show was cancelled in the States and the Greater Valley Glen Council voted to support a motion making it illegal to kill or abuse animals for the sake of art.
I suppose those gelled up chickens are screaming in ecstasy
Yea..they’re not burning per se..they’re just jiving to some Peggy Lee singing You give me fever 🙂
I generally apply to the perspective that art should be defined broadly, but this is not art. It’s animal abuse, and the “artists” should be jailed for it. The the QMA would pay for this is nothing short of morally reprehensible. And yet, so many Qataris still seem baffled at why so much of the world media mocks and criticizes their country . . . Oh what brilliant ways with the QMA find to spend the nation’s funds next? It bogles the minds.
waste of money on terrible art, cash would be better spent on improving the workers situation
Reprehensible. I would have expected the head of QMA to have learned more about art & ethics at Duke University. It appears she fallen into the trap of thinking anything that “shocks” is valid art. Terribly disappointing.
The fact that Mathaf officials claim that the chickens were not harmed and that the burning chickens in Printemps are a “constructed image” just goes to further depict themselves as being untruthful. Which is unethical for a museum that claims to teach and educate. Here is the proof: Adel admits in an interview that he was burned:- “Abdessemed on fire in his photograph — which he did for real, burning his neck and hands in the process”
it was really shocking, it better be a very clever make up and trick so that the chicken may look half burned and suffering (and in which case its really good art, well done… ) and if it’s not this guy should be in jail for animal cruelty