The video Make down is a 34 minute sequence shot that shows the artist removing make-up in front of a mirror. The peculiarity of the scene consists in two symbolic details: first, the make-up itself, covering his face, hair and torso – a thick kaki layer, reminding of military camouflage – and second, the paper used to remove the make-up – black and white prints of stills taken from Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 film, “La bataille d’Alger”
( The Battle of Algiers). These still images put together recreate a sequence in which a young Algerian woman takes off her veil and puts on Western make-up. This disguise will help her pass the border and place a bomb in the French area of Algiers. Censured in France when it came out, the movie combines history and feminist activism; it may also be reinterpreted today in relation to the recent history of terrorism. The video goes with an installation: a vitrine enclosing the 96 prints soiled by the make-up, the remains of the artist’s performance, as if it were a reliquary. Compared to the terrorist’s gesture, the action is performed backwards by the artist, which could suggest the impossibility of having a unique reading of history.
Since 1998, through site specific works, often in public spaces, or video works, Dennis Adams focuses on ambiguous characters, condemned by our recent history, revealing traumas or collective amnesia phenomena. The specific episodes from 20th or 21st century history he refers to find a relevance in today's sensitive actuality. Dennis Adams plays with the ideological power of images, by referring to cinema and media images, yet leaving their meaning open to interpretation: he does not state clearly his political stance, but underlines the complexity of history and lets the spectator form his own opinion.
Dennis Adams was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1948. He lives and works in New York