Helmut Lang and Mohamed Bourouissa Capture the Young Creatives of Paris

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Helmut Lang SEEN BY: Mohamed Bourouissa
Helmut Lang SEEN BY: Mohamed BourouissaArtwork Mohamed Bourouissa, courtesy of Helmut Lang

The Deutsche Borse Photography Prize winner has “reimagined” the brand’s latest collection, shooting the city’s artists, musicians and designers in a modern-day Moulin Rouge setting

French-Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa is known for creating challenging work. His immersive multimedia pieces – created with photography, video, painting and sculpture – tend to deal with complex socio-economic issues, while also shining a spotlight on the most marginalised groups in society. It’s a bold, emotive and confronting style that’s been gaining serious recognition: last year, for example, Bourouissa was announced the winner of the prestigious Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. “2020 has been a bit difficult, weird and violent,” he says over email. “[But I also] won a very important prize in the field of photography, so it’s been mixed.”

Bourouissa’s work has also drawn the attention of Helmut Lang, who invited him to “reimagine” the brand’s latest collection for a special photo series. The resulting project, titled SEEN BY, sees the artist capture the young creatives of Paris in a colourful, “modern-day” Moulin Rouge setting. The subjects – who include artists, DJs, and designers –  are all clad in Helmut Lang’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection.

It was an exciting new move for Bourouissa, who was previously “not very familiar” with the fashion industry. “I didn’t know much about Helmut Lang, only the asexual and minimalist style of the designs,” he admits. However, he was “thrilled” to take on the challenge. “I like to question myself about my aesthetic and how I can collaborate with other people and designers, to make the best of both aesthetics.”

Bourouissa is known for immersing himself in his projects and can spend years building up trust with his subjects. One of his most celebrated series, Périphérique (2008), documents the disenfranchised youth of the Paris suburbs, and was created over three years. He also lived with Philadelphia’s low-income horse riders for eight months, which resulted in his acclaimed 2014 project Horse Day. “It’s quite important in my way of making art that, from the moment you work with other people, it’s time that inscribes different realities, that allows you to have different prisms,” he explains. “It is these different prisms that allow you to understand, to approach a subject in its entirety.”

And while the fashion industry may seem worlds away from his other projects, Bourouissa doesn’t dismiss its significance. “Fashion is a strong industry,” he adds, “it is eminently political, it affects everyone. Everyone wants to be fashionable.” 

Helmut Lang’s SEEN BY is a three-part series reimagining the brand’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection. Previous collaborators have included Carlota Guererro and Paul Mpagi Sepuya, with Bourouissa as the third. The collection is available here.

Mohamed Bourouissa’s latest exhibition HARA!!!!!!hAAARAAAAA!!!!!hHARAAA!!! will run at Goldsmiths’ CCA, in London, from 2 Apr-13 Jun 2021.