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October 27th, 2011
Live Cinema/Peripheral Stages: Mohamed Bourouissa and Tobias Zielony

Mohamed Bourouissa and Tobias Zielony
Turning the Lens to the Margins

(October 15, 2011-January 16, 2012)


Philadelphia, PA (October 2011) —Presented together in a new exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Live Cinema/Peripheral Stages, the works of Mohamed Bourouissa and Tobias Zielony address tensions inherent in the peripheries of modern cities, especially as expressed by marginalized youth. Both artists respond to this context in their work: Bourouissa disputes the power of the mass media to display and propagate information, while Zielony documents decaying urban structures and the people who inhabit them.

“While addressing the peripheral condition, the work of Mohamed Bourouissa and Tobias Zielony questions cultural representations of marginalized populations and depicts their subjects in critical yet poetic ways,” says Adelina Vlas, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “Bourouissa and Zielony are representative of a young generation of artists who have turned their attention towards contemporary society and have built upon the traditions of both documentary and portrait photography.”

French artist Mohamed Bourouissa explored the motif of the smashed television screen as early as 2007 and has returned to it in 2011 with his series Écrans (Screens). In the exhibition, this motif of twisted metal, broken glass, and colorful entrails of television monitors is represented in the form of transparencies in light boxes. In this way, Bourouissa takes a critical stance towards the mass media’s reliance on spectacle, not only by denying the function of television screens as powerful transmitters of images, but also by physically destroying their value as commodities.

His video Temps mort (Time Out) (2009) is the result of a year-long communication via mobile telephones between the artist and an acquaintance detained in a French prison. The video includes snippets of telephone conversations, text messages, and low-resolution moving images, mirroring life inside and outside the penitentiary and revealing the intimate relationship that developed between artist and prisoner. An unsentimental portrait of life in prison emerges, where time in jail is characterized as an alternate reality and the prison itself as a vice exerting constant pressure through its ever-present confining walls. A reflection on time and place, Temps mort challenges the societal stereotypes associated with being incarcerated and restores a sense of humanity to the individuals in this marginal situation.

Bourouissa (born Algeria, 1978), lives and works in Paris, where he specialized in photography at the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs and received his master’s degree from the Sorbonne in 2004. His work was also included in the 6th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2010), in The Generational: Younger than Jesus in 2009 at the New Museum, New York, and in ILLUMInation at the 54th Venice Biennial (2011).

Since 2004, Tobias Zielony has been photographing young people in the public spaces of European and North American suburbs. Surrounded by nondescript architecture, these youths are depicted in a state of suspended expectation, caught between childhood and adulthood. Zielony’s Vele (Sails) project, of 2009–10, includes a series of photographs and a nine-minute animated film focusing on the architecture and young inhabitants of Scampia, a suburb north of Naples, Italy. Initially the product of a utopian vision, the design of the Scampia community was modified during construction, making its buildings both less attractive and less functional. The structures, known as le Vele di Scampia (Sails of Scampia), are now infamous for the high rates of unemployment among their inhabitants and  the presence the Camorra, the infamous organized crime ring.

Alongside the architecture are portraits of young men, shown both in groups and as individuals. Pearl and Mini-Bike (both 2010), are examples of Zielony’s precise compositional framing, where the intimacy generated by the photographer brings the viewer into the harsh world of the projects in southern Italy. The toughness implied by the outfits and adopted poses speak about a reality in which masculinity is constantly tested and proven.

Zielony (born Germany, 1973), studied at the University of Wales and the HGB Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. His work has been included in such group exhibitions as the 7th International Biennial of Photography and Visual Arts (2010) in Liège, Belgium; Morality Act 1 at Witte de With, Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2009–10; and Populism at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 2005-06.

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