"I'm not a political artist. But it is political." | Artist Mohamed Bourouissa | Louisiana Channel

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French-Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa shares how he works with subjects and people who society tends to marginalize.

In the video, Mohamed Bourouissa gives a look into the multi-faceted world that is his art practice. Bourouissa works with everything from sound and installation to photography and calls attention to overlooked groups in the Western society: “When you have parents who come from immigration, you have to rebuild yourself,” Bourouissa explains. “In my work, I talk a lot about the relationship between human beings and society. More specifically to the masculinity.”

In the photographic series Périphéries Bourouissa have photographed friends from his upbringing in staged scenarios in the French suburban ghetto: “In my pictures, you see so many confrontations with eye contact, because it creates this form of tension between male and male; male and the society; male and the police.” The photographs challenge our preconceived ideas about young people with minority backgrounds that are formed by mainstream media: “There’s something wrong inside, and you have to question this. Because it’s only a reproduction of how societies see men.”

Mohamed Bourouissa got inspired by the popular cry in Marseille ‘Ara’ for the work HARA!!!!!!hAAARAAAAA!!!!!hHARAAA!!!. The cry is the prerogative of lookouts around drug dealers’ spaces. Crying out ‘Ara’ is a warning signal that police is on its way: “I decided to make the sound piece because the sound was so intense and represents something.” Bourouissa says: “I work with people, who others say is marginalized, but for me, they are in the society. They are not outside,” and continues: “I grew up in the suburb, and I am attached to that.” The scream that echoes in the sound piece can also be read as an embodiment of Edvard Munch’s Scream, expressing terror and alarm.

During an artist residency in the United States in 2014, Mohamed Bourouissa created the video work Horse Day. Initially, he wanted to make an alternative cowboy film inspired by the local Black community of horse riders, the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club. After living in North Philadelphia for eight months, Bourouissa ended up portraying an event called Horse Day, initiated by the artist himself, where riders collaborated with local artists on decorating the horses for a show. “We grew up with so many images of the cowboy. And the cowboy was to be, in our imaginary and subconsciously, white. But in reality, the cowboy is not just a white man.” Bourouissa points out that there are many horse riders, or cowboys, in, for example, Mexico and Morocco. Still, the image of the white cowboy lingers: “Unconsciously that creates something in our mind. And for me, it was very important to deconstruct that.” It was crucial for Mohamed Bourouissa to make this subculture visible to a larger audience through the museum space: “You call it subculture, but I call it my culture.”

Mohamed Bourouissa (b. 1978) was born in Blida, Algeria. Today he lives and works in Paris, France. He have had solo exhibitions at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Haus der Kunst in Münich and most recently Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. He has also participated in many group exhibitions and biennials in Sydney, Sharjah, Havana, Lyon, Venice, Algeria, Liverpool and Berlin. He was nominated for the art award Le Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2018, and in 2020 he was awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Award.

Mohamed Bourouissa was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in October 2021 in his solo exhibition HARA!!!!!!hAAARAAAAA!!!!!hHARAAA!!! at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Produced and edited by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen

Cover photo credit: Mohamed Bourouissa, La fenêtre, 2005 From the series “Périphérique” © ADAGP Mohamed Bourouissa Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling.


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