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Mohamed Bourouissa at the 5th Architecture and Design Series of the Swiss Institute

© Mohamed Bourouissa, Le murmure des fantômes (The Whispering of Ghosts)

The Swiss Institute just inaugurated the 5th edition of its Annual Architecture and Design Series, curated this year by Alia Farid. Among the artists selected to work on this exhibition is the Algeria-born French artist Mohamed Bourouissa.

The works in this exhibition, entitled The Space Between Classrooms, respond to the limitations of learning within the prescribed architectural and structural parameters of an archetypal school setting. Farid takes as a starting point the prototype for schools that Alfred Roth designed for Kuwait’s Ministry of Public Works during the late 1960s, a period of rapid modernization for the newly flourishing oil state. Roth, a celebrated Swiss modernist architect, developed prefabricated schools that were to be replicated in each district across the country. From his initial report on the existing provision of schools, which opens the exhibition, The Space Between Classrooms compares the uniformity of Roth’s architecture and the introduction of a modern education system in Kuwait with expanded art practices from Latin America, Southwest Asia and North Africa. These works draw on radical forms of pedagogy and communication as tools for unlearning, exploring how institutionally engineered values might govern imagination.

In Mohamed Bourouissa’s (b. 1978, Algeria) film Le Murmure des fantômes (The Whispering of Ghosts), the artist visits the Algerian psychiatric hospital at which post-colonial theorist and philosopher Frantz Fanon once practiced. There, Fanon’s former patient and one-time liberation fighter, Bourlem Mohamed, created a garden as a form of occupational therapy. Together, Bourouissa and Mohamed discuss Fanon’s radical attempts to change the punitive culture of psychiatric hospitals. The film intersperses Mohamed’s recollections of being called a Fellagha, an Arabic word for bandit that was used to refer to anti-colonial militia groups in French North Africa, with the pages of a book containing the names and descriptions of the plants in his garden. Simultaneously, Bourouissa documents the creation of a garden in Liverpool, which is based on what Mohamed describes from his memory. There the artist worked with local gardeners, school pupils, teachers and artists to make the design real again. These encounters together reveal and connect the personal history of Bourlem Mohamed, the institutional history of the Blida-Joinville Hospital, the intellectual history of Frantz Fanon, and the tragic, broader history of the conflicted relations between France and its former colonies.

Born in Algeria in 1978, Mohammed Bourouissa studied photography at Panthéon-Sorbonne University and the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. As a photographer and videographer, he finds his inspirations in paintings (Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, Le Caravage) and the social reality that surrounds him. Since 2008 his works have been exhibited in the Palais de Tokyo at Paris, at the New Museum of contemporary art in New York, at the Finnish Museum of Photography of Helsinki, and at the Centro Cultural Correios of Rio de Janeiro. He will be in residency at the Villa San Fransisco  in 2021.


Including works by Atelier Aziz Alqatami, Mohamed Bourouissa, Olga Casellas and Marco Abarca, Khalid al Gharaballi, Jumana Manna and Haig Aivazian, Nuria Montiel, Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Oscar Murillo, Gala Porras-Kim, Alfred Roth, Cecilia Vicuña. 

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