Jean-Louis Bourgeois (born 1940) wears many hats – active relaxivist, global traveller, published author, African clown, architectural historian, social justice and environmental activist.
The son of artist Louise Bourgeois and art historian Robert Goldwater. Bourgeois studied literature and architectural history at Harvard University, where, for an essay on labyrinths, he won the Bowdoin Prize.
In 1969 and 1970 Bourgeois worked at ArtForum before becoming interested in the production and history of mud brick architecture.
He is the author of the volume “Spectacular Vernacular: the Adobe Tradition” with photographs taken by his late wife Carollee Pelos, which established him as an expert on the subject.
In 1978 Bourgeois and Pelos travelled to Afghanistan on the “Magic Bus” by way of Europe, Turkey, Iraq and Iran arriving in the capital Kabul at the time of the Soviet occupation of that country. The couple were able to overcome the travel restrictions in place at the time and document the country’s rich, centuries-old mud architecture. The couple also traveled extensively through West Africa studying and recording the region’s vast adobe building tradition.
In the ancient city of Djenné in Mali Bourgeois became actively involved in architectural conservation efforts including the preservation of the world’s largest adobe building, the Great Mosque of Djenne. While living in Djennê, Bourgeois opposed the Talo Dam project, and became a fixture in the city’s cultural life, eventually building himself an adobe house there. He was made an honorary Prince of the city and also inducted into the Koreduga clan of African clowns.
Bourgeois has a long history as an activist and supporter of many social justice causes, including the Free Leonard Peltier movement, Occupy Wall Street, and the opposition to NYU’s Sexton Plan. In 2012, he helped the hacker collective Anonymous foil Karl Rove’s attempt to steal the 2012 Presidential election in Florida, Virginia and Ohio by using the GOP’s ORCA system.
Bourgeois is currently actively involved in helping the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota in its battle to stop the $3.8 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline.
He appeared in the biopic on his mother Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine and is currently the subject of a documentary film focusing on his life’s work.
Bourgeois lives in New York City’s Greenwich Village and also owns an adobe house in Taos, New Mexico.
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