In Mohamed Bourouissa’s (b. 1978, Blida, Algeria) earliest bodies of work—Nous Sommes Halles (We Are Halles, 2003-05), Périphérique (Peripheral, 2005–09), Temps mort (Time Out, 2009)—certain tenets of his practice were already in place: rituals of friendship, a focus on alterity and the role images play in channels of distribution, investigations into the politics of representation and subjectivity. Seeking to humanize his community as social subjects, Bourouissa engages all sorts of imagery, initiating agency where is it often deprived—scenes of riots re-enacted by their protagonists, images filmed using a mobile phone smuggled to a prison inmate, or with hidden cameras given to cigarette sellers in Barbès, Paris. Spanning photography, film, drawing, and sculpture, Bourouissa’s work is a hybrid of documentation and formal composition, collaborative choreographed representations of reality on the margins, channeling a wide range of historical precedents from Caravaggio and Delacroix to Fanon, rap music, and the Harlem Renaissance.
Initially driven to capture his own community and generation of immigrant youth living in the outskirts of Paris, in recent years Bourouissa’s focus has expanded to the US, the UAE, and beyond. In 2014 the artist spent nearly a year in North Philadelphia, PA living among the young men of the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, a non-profit established over 100 years ago by African American cowboys. This area increasingly struggles with unemployment and drug abuse, economic and social conditions from which the center attempts to provide a refuge—rescuing horses and mentoring boys who may otherwise find support hard to come by. Bourouissa instigated a collaboration with the community of riders and local artists—a riding competition and pageant called “Horse Day” in which equestrian participants arrived clad in decadent regalia, costumes including linked blank CDs, streamers, fake flowers, or fabric Pegasus wings. Using the cowboy as an emblem of a narrative of domination, the critical documents Bourouissa and the Fletcher Street community produced—sculptures, costumes, drawings, photography, and a video mixing tropes of westerns, documentaries and hip-hop—explore social injustice as it relates to geographical space, spotlight contemporary America’s culture of segregation, and intend to forge a new creative space for marginalized groups.
In 2019 for the Sharjah Biennial, Bourouissa introduced a collaborative multimedia installation to an abandoned kindergarten in Kalba, UAE that integrates the architecture of a 1950s psychiatric hospital in Blida, Algeria—the historic site of breakthroughs in ethnopsychiatry by hero of the anti-colonial movement, critical theorist Frantz Fanon. Rooted in an artist residency in Blida in 2014 and a subsequent project for the Liverpool Biennial in 2018, this work is multi-tiered and made in collaboration with the only living former patient of Fanon, Bourlem Mohamed. The work includes a garden for healing and growth with Algerian flora, medicinal herbs, and plants related to the landscapes of the slave trade, as well as community workshops and murals, Montessori-inspired sculptures, and a non-linear film dealing with madness. Presenting a counternarrative to the conventional intentions of normalization or homogenization associated with spaces designated for education and psychiatric rehabilitation, here Bourouissa introduces a blueprint for imagination and emancipation.
Bourouissa lives and works in Paris, France. Recent solo exhibitions include presentations at Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, Germany (2020); Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, France (2019); Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (2018); Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2018); Musée National Eugène Delacroix, Paris, France (2017); Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA (2017); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2016); Savannah College of Arts and Design, Atlanta, GA (2011); Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA (2011); FotoRio, Centro Cultural Correios, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2009); and the Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland (2009); among many more. His work is represented in notable public collections worldwide including the Burger Collection, Hong Kong, China; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Galerie du Château d’Eau, Toulouse, France; Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France; Fonds National d’art contemporain, France; FRAC Bretagne, Rennes, France; FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon, France; Fundation Sindika Dokolo; International Art Fund, Grande-Bretagne, France; Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Pinault Collection, Paris, France; Sammlung Philara, Düsseldorf, Germany; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Weng Collection, Krefeld, Germany, among many more. Bourouissa’s work has been commended with numerous prizes including the Nomination for the Prix Pictet, UK; Prix Fondation Blachère, France; Prix Studio Collector, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, France; CNAP – Aide à la première exposition; and First Prize – Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles, France.