Critics’ Picks

Mohamed Bourouissa, Le Miroir, 2007–2008, C-print, 47 x 35”. From the series “Périphéries,” 2006–2008.

Mohamed Bourouissa, Le Miroir, 2007–2008, C-print, 47 x 35”. From the series “Périphéries,” 2006–2008.


Mohamed Bourouissa

La Galerie Pfriem, SCAD Lacoste
Rue Saint-Trophime
September 10–November 23, 2012

For his exhibition “Le Miroir,” Paris-based Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa photographed staged settings with his friends and neighbors, part of that portion of the population known to many in Paris as Les Banlieusards—those living in the neighborhoods outside the Boulevard Périphérique, a busy highway that forms a ring around Paris. Constructing the scenes within these sites, the artist reveals what he calls the “invisible tensions” of being the “other” in contemporary France. Bourouissa allows the natural exchange of gazes and gestures among the participants to occur spontaneously, which charges the images with an emotional edginess. The results are seemingly authentic expressions of the anxieties and suspense that underpin the daily lives of many marginalized young people in France who are attempting to gain access to a culture in which they may seem too easily suspect.

Bourouissa’s images combine documentary-style journalistic content with formal compositions influenced by historic paintings, such as those by Delacroix and Géricault. For example, La République, 2007–2008, was staged in Clichy-sous-Bois (where the Paris riots of 2005 started). As in a painting by Delacroix, the scene is carefully composed. The individuals are placed at different levels around the set and a tower block looms in the background. We are not quite sure what will happen next, but the tension of the moment is paramount. By juxtaposing past and present struggles for equality and freedom, the artist raises questions of their true value today. At the same time, he taps into the ubiquitous incidences of unrest portrayed throughout the media. Yet Bourouissa takes the viewer deeper into the lives of these new inner cities of immigrants by giving faces to the actual individuals who make up these otherwise anonymous crowds.