Adel Abdessemed | Coup de tête

Adel Abdessemed discusses his monumental sculpture “Coup de tête”, and the role played by football in his native Algeria.

Adel Abdessemed, Coup de tête, 2012
Italy’s Marco Materazzi goes down after being butted by Zinedine Zidane of France during the 2006 World Cup final. Photo: John MacDougall

Adel Abdessemed’s sculpture Coup de Tête depicts the iconic moment when Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi at the 2006 World Cup. While the work captures a movement that ignited a global media explosion, Abdessemed spoke to Shifting Vision about Coup de Tête’s multiple layers, and his view on the role of football in his native Algeria.

Abdessemed said that the Zidane heabutt spurred a visceral reaction in him. ‘I felt it through the screen, this gesture of violence.’

The work which is currently on display at the Pinault Collection in Rennes, France until the 29th of August  2021 explores a multitude of social and political nuances, many of them close to the artist’s own experiences. He said that many Algerians are massive football fans, often filling stadiums to the brim. ‘They love football because it is the only environment where there are objective rules, where there are laws. There is a referee, there is a whistle, if a player commits a foul he is sent off.’ Outside of the pitch, the reality can be quite different. Abdessemed explained that Algeria’s dictatorship creates a dissonance in the rule of fair law and justice within society and as such, ‘the only rules exist in the stadium.’

Adel Abdessemed, Coup de tête , 2012. © Adel Abdessemed, Paris ADAGP 2021. Courtesy the artist

‘I think that a work of art never claims to change the world, because it will never be able to overthrow a government. But it might be able to change a vision, and if we are able to shift a vision we have made it.’

World Cup Finals, June 1982. The Algeria team lines up before the match.