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Adel Abdessemed Cautioned Don't Trust Me

A look at rural farming communities in Mexico.

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Written by DeletedUser

In 2008 SFAI's (San Francisco Art Institute) Walter & McBean Gallery opened the controversial exhibition Don't Trust Me by artist Adel Abdessemed. The exhibition included, among other things, a video installation depicting the slaughter of various animals. Framed in such a way as to only show the viewer the animal and the impact of a sledge hammer upon its head, the work resulted in an uproar to rival that of Andres Serrano's Piss Christ. Amid a swarm of threats from animal rights activists and others disturbed by the exhibition, which was subsequently closed, the core issues raised by the videos were left undiscussed.

Upon first glance at the videos, it looks like animal torture. Without any wall text or brochures (none were provided by the gallery), the viewer is left to believe the animals were indeed killed for the sake of art. After the uproar it was revealed that the artist documented actual slaughtering taking place in a remote farming village in Mexico, where slaughtering one's own meat is normal, everyday practice. In this way he forced us to confront just how far removed we are, in the US at least, from knowing how we come by the food we purchase neatly packaged in supermarket isles and meat departments. The animals in Abdessemed's videos were struck over the head with a sledgehammer, killing them instantly; however in videos of slaughterhouses in the states, animals flounder for minutes, screaming and struggling as they go through an unnecessarily long slaughtering process. We've all seen those videos. Yet, the US meat industry, so vividly described by Upton Sinclair in 1906, has not changed in over 100 years. And we continue to purchase that meat. And so Abdessemed asks us to reconsider our conceptions of acceptable and humane treatment of animals and how those conceptions relate to our supermarket, and even apparel, purchases.

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Photo of Vincent Cheng

Provocative post Crystal. I still remember the 1st time I went to the live section of a Chinese supermarket as a kid and being stunned by the sight of animals being slaughtered & butchered on the spot to fill orders.