Manifesta purposely strives to keep its distance from what are often seen as the dominant centres of artistic production, instead seeking fresh and fertile terrain for the mapping of a new cultural topography.

Manifesta 13 Marseille was one of the only international biennials to take place during the global pandemic COVID-19, the biennial ended earlier than planned due to the second national lockdown

Mohamed Bouroissa, AL/FR

The expressions ‘hara’ and ‘aouin’, which are very popular in Marseille, come from lookouts posted around places where drugs are sold. They chant these words to warn of the police’s arrival, thus preventing drug dealers from being arrested. For Manifesta 13 Marseille, Mohamed Bourouissa takes these almost incantatory slogans and twists them further into a sound piece that is simultaneously poetic and political. Transformed and distorted to the point of unintelligibility, the phrases become abstract; they become something else that mixes the aesthetic form of rap with the concept of concrete poetry. A monotonous chant, a bird song that must be understood as an alarm. Given the climate of hypersurveillance that goes along with the violence prevalent in contemporary societies, the artist has reversed the codes here to turn the lookouts’ signals into a symptomatic cry of awareness. Stretched to the extreme, the words become simple, outstandingly minimal sounds. Repeated like a mantra, they produce a trance-like evocation of an ancestral ritual.

Mohamed Bourouissa’s sound piece can be understood as the perfect adaptation of Munch’s Scream, whose main figure stares at the viewer in terror. Seemingly shocked, his gaze shakes viewers awake. Bourouissa takes the Norwegian painter’s emblem of tortured expressionism and relates it to the contemporary figure of the whistleblower. The sound waves – laments that have become refrains – echo an expression that fills Marseille’s neighbourhoods, where any number of voices can be heard sounding the alarm. With immeasurable sensitivity, Mohamed Bourouissa invites us to become aware of the world exactly as it is