Invited by the Monnaie de Paris to create a work for Nuit Blanche 2012, Mohamed Bourouissa seized the opportunity to engage with the theme of money: he put the oldest institution in France—and one of the world’s longest operating firms, founded in 864, which has the kingly mission of minting coins—side by side with rap songs hammering out the ostentatious triumph of money, and which he used to listen to as a boy. Alternating between music video and industrial film, All-In retraces the process of minting a medallion featuring the rapper Booba’s portrait. The video is set to the hypnotic beats of “Foetus” (2010), a hit song from the album Autopsie 3, which chronicles the musician’s rise from early childhood to drug dealing to the rap entrepreneur he has become. The nonchalance of the singer’s voice conveys a sense of arrogance that is a measure of his success and a sign of his power and superiority. The musical cadence is in tune with the automated, relentless rhythm, at once slow and precise, of the machines marking the successive stages of the manufacture of the coin, on the surface of which Booba’s face, drawn by Mohamed Bourouissa, gradually appears. The final shots of the film show one of the salons at the headquarters of the monetary institution, Quai de Conti in Paris, left in disarray after a party: coins come raining down, smashing the leftover glasses, ashtrays, bottles…
This unprecedented, one-off alliance between a state institution and a rapper singing the praise of wealth betrays a Western society in which personal success depends on money. What Mohamed Bourouissa calls “liberal anarchism” is embodied perfectly in the final, paradigmatic scene. All-In is also a study of the creation of the image, both in a literal sense, with the portrait of Booba being stamped into metal by the Monnaie de Paris, and in a figurative sense, through the prestige this distinction represents and the position it affords the rapper. Some of the coins are preserved in the form of twenty diptychs called “Pile & face” [“heads & tails”] within the installation Le stock—an imposing black box evoking a crate for transporting works of art or a strongbox where one would keep one’s money. The artist is striving here to enhance the value of a product: issued in an edition of two thousand, these tokens were minted and sold at the price of two euros during Nuit Blanche 2012. The unsold coins are thus transformed into unique pieces, which considerably modifies their value.
The video is the starting point for an exploration of contemporary societies’ ambiguous relationship to money. All-In thus designates a body of pieces to which the video, functioning as a matrix, belongs. These pieces include the photographs “Stock 1” and “Agnes.” The first one shows, from a slightly downward angle, the vast interior of the factory in Pessac, the national vault where euro coins are minted—which, however, utterly sterile, could be any factory in the world. The image conjures up representations of power: emptied of human presence, it exudes, just like the video frames, a certain clinical coldness, a kind of false documentary objectivity set as a standard by the heirs of the Düsseldorf School. Monumentality here signifies infallibility. The second photograph shows a young woman seated in an armchair, bending over coins she is counting and arranging into small piles on a round, glass-top coffee table. Two opposing sides of the same society, each structured by money on which the society is dependent, resonate with one another. The allure of money, its power as a model for success, is proportional to the violence of exclusion. The small piles of yellow coins carefully counted by Agnes express how the value of money is relative, here with respect to its scarcity.
This dichotomy seems to be also at play in the video Kamel which shows a man’s hand—that of the gallery owner Kamel Menour, who represents the artist—spinning a two-euro coin and starting over as soon as the coin lands flat. Every spin is accompanied by a song related to money, from “Tout pour la monnaie” to “I need a money machine,” a cynical coin toss akin to a globalized Russian roulette. Repeated endlessly, this gesture illustrates the irrepressible attraction of money.
The film La valeur du produit [Product Value] is a sort of online marketing course, a tutorial in which a man exalts the best way of selling his organic product, which we quickly understand is illicit. Bourouissa brings together the increasingly aggressive sales practices of contemporary capitalism and the methods used by drug dealers who share the same vocabulary, the same basic notions of commerce, from generating demand to building customer loyalty.
By making two worlds collide—rap and an official institution embodied by the Monnaie de Paris, drug dealing and a business school—the artist juxtaposes two apparent antipodes and spotlights their affinities. All-In, a reflection on the power of capital, sows confusion by revealing the ambiguity inherent in money. An instrument of domination elevated to authority thanks to its hegemony in exchanges of all kinds, money is also an object of fascination, a means that has become an end in itself, an outward sign of wealth that remedies social marginalization, like Booba’s self-asserted materialism. Eschewing any judgment, Mohamed Bourouissa highlights the contradictory, and yet inextricable, issues at stake in the value of money, for which All-In appears to be a perfect metaphor.
All in, 2012, video color and sound, 4’54’’ © Mohamed Bourouissa ADAGP
Coproduction kamel mennour / La Monnaie de Paris / Mohamed Bourouissa
Shown at :
• HARa!!!!!!hAaaRAAAAA!!!!!hHAaA!!!, Goldsmiths CCA, London (UK), 2021
• Libre-échange, Les Rencontres d'Arles, Arles (FR), 2019
• Hustling, Basis, Frankfurt (DE), 2016
• Mohamed Bourouissa, De School, Amsterdam (NL), 2016
• All in, kamel mennour gallery, Paris (FR), 2013
• Pop & musique, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (FR), 2013
• Everywhere but now, 4th Thessaloniki Biennal of Contemporary Art, Salonika (GR), 2014
• Nuit Blanche 2012, quai de Conti, Paris (FR), 2012
La valeur du produit, 2013, video color and sound, 5’58’’
Exhibition view of Pop & musique, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (FR), 2013 © Mohamed Bourouissa ADAGP