Mohamed Bourouissa (b.1978) was announced as the 2020 winner of the prestigious £30,000 prize via a special online presentation hosted by The Photographers Gallery on Monday 14 September 2020. Narrated by the actor, Juliet Stevenson, the film included a short history of the photography prize before presenting the work of each of this years nominees, which also includes Anton Kusters, Mark Neville and Clare Strand and then announcing the winner.
Particularly focussed on the representation of disenfranchised people and marginalised communities, the Paris-based photographer Bourouissa was selected by the judging panel for his spectacular installation Free Trade. First exhibited in a Monoprix supermarket in Arles as part of Rencontres d'Arles, France, this exhibition brought together an extensive survey of projects produced in the last 15 years.
Working across photography, video, painting and sculpture, Bourouissas projects often examine socio-economic processes, invisible tensions between different social milieus and the related cultural divisions. Free Trade considers the relationship between individuals and the complex systems of markets and capital, while also reflecting on historically and socially prescribed aesthetics from art history to rap culture.
The exhibition includes one of Bourouissas first projects, Périphérique (2005-2008), which subverts the common stereotypes of youths living in the infamous banlieues of Paris; a project documenting the practice of cigarette smuggling at a Paris subway station; as well as a work that repurposes Polaroid photos of people caught stealing everyday items from a supermarket. In a later project Bourouissa uses augmented reality to create virtual sculptures representing the forgotten and faceless army of the unemployed.
The video Temps Mort (2009) depicts the daily routines of a prisoner, connected via phone to the artist, it conveys the delicate exchange between both individuals as the confrontation between life inside and outside intensifies.
Bourouissa seems highly aware both of the expectation that his work should authentically represent the banlieues, and the reality that they are bought and sold on the art market, far from the world they depict writes Cécile Bishop in the exhibition catalogue: Through his work he redirects the circulation of images (and money) so that his subjects become active collaborators in making and selling works of art.
For The Photographers Gallery exhibition, five projects drawn from the expansive Free Trade are presented on the fourth floor of the Gallery, including Nous Sommes Halles (2003-2005 in collaboration with Anoush Kashoot), Périphérique (2005-2008), Temps Mort (2009), Shoplifters (2014-2015) and the augmented-reality piece Si Di Kubi (2017).
Says Bourouissa of his work: When I was in school I learned about the history of art but that didnt introduce other aspects of my home culture or leave traces of the people around me, so later I decided to try to bring my home culture into the history of art. For me its about the idea of integration how we can integrate our own histories into that one.
The 2020 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize jury comprised: Martin Barnes, Senior Curator, Photographs, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom; Melanie Manchot, artist and photographer, based in London, United Kingdom; Joachim Naudts, Curator and Editor at FOMU Foto Museum in Antwerp, Belgium; Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, Frankfurt a. M., Germany; and Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers Gallery as the non-voting chair.
Brett Rogers OBE, Director, The Photographers Gallery and Chair of Jury, said:
Huge congratulations to Mohamed Bourouissa. His phenomenal exhibition first shown at Arles in 2019, resonated deeply with critics and public alike and presented a potent examination of the mechanics of power and their effect on disenfranchised communities.
I also want to congratulate all this years nominees. It would be impossible not to consider this years award announcement through the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the many deep-rooted social, economic, racial and political injustices it has exposed and amplified.
As we begin the urgent reassessment of our current systems and values, it feels especially fitting to pay tribute to the many artists, who do so much to challenge both our assumptions about the world and the actions we take to address them. This feels especially true of this years shortlist, whose projects - individually and collectively - are truly of their time. A previous nominee, Robert Adams observed of his alumni in 2004, Not competitors. Rather, trying to be citizens of one world. This feels as true today as it did then. We are immensely grateful for their remarkable talent, openness, generosity and knowledge.
Anne-Marie Beckmann, Director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, said:
We are excited to award the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize to Mohamed Bourouissa, whose work is not only extremely relevant and topical, but also highly innovative and responsive in its use of the medium of photography. The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize has always recognised the importance that photography and photographers play in reflecting, informing and shaping the world. We are proud of its legacy in identifying and rewarding bold, innovative and original practice and we are further proud of the breadth and range of its participants.
It also feels appropriate to use this moment to think about how the prize might adapt and develop as it celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021. Inspired by the depth of debate within this years jury, we are committed to initiating an open and informed exploration of the role of the prize and what considerations need to be taken on board, to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. The question again now as it was right from the beginning is how can the prize offer the best support for photographers and the most visible and effective platform for their works? We look forward to the next 25 years.
The work of all the 2020 shortlisted artists, Mohamed Bourouissa, Anton Kusters, Mark Neville and Clare Strand, remains on display at The Photographers Gallery in an extended presentation, curated by Anna Dannemann, until 20 September 2020.
Highlighting the diverse and innovative nature of their individual practices, the 2020 presentations consider the shared artistic, social and political issues influencing contemporary photography more widely. Taking over the 4th and 5th floors of The Photographers Gallery, the exhibition structure comprises four distinct artists rooms, offering each shortlisted project a self-contained space for visitors to engage with the works in depth, as well as encouraging a consideration of the projects in dialogue. While the projects are notably independent they all demonstrate, through their reflective approach to the medium and in the subjects they explore, photographys unique ability to make visible what often lies forgotten or concealed.
Now in its twenty-fourth year, the highly regarded annual prize, originated by The Photographers Gallery in 1996 and awarded in collaboration with the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation since 2016, rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format in Europe, which is felt to have significantly contributed to the medium of photography in the last 12 months.