Richard Mosse

5.2.15 - 25.5.15

Horrifying, highly moving, and disturbingly beautiful. Irish artist Richard Mosse utilized an outdated military surveillance film to envision the civil war in eastern DR Congo anew. In this intersection between art and documentary he created an appalling testimony of a forgotten and complex conflict.

How do you communicate a war that has no center, a war where violence had become a permanent state stoked by fear and rumor, tribal conflict, superstition and corruption, a war that could not be reduced to a clear-cut story?

Richard Mosse’s video installation 
The Enclave (2013) approaches the divided warzone of DR Congo by revealing glimpses of the logic of war, an overwhelming, confusing, nightmarish state, where moments of quiet beauty are punctured by violent eruptions and fear is constantly lurking just beneath the surface.

IN SEARCH OF A NEW VISUAL VOCABULARY

Richard Mosse travelled in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo over four years (2010-14), following and living with paramilitary groups in a warzone riddled with ethnic conflict, massacres and systematic sexual violence. Even though the war has killed millions of people, it has received only scant attention in the international media.

This invisibility was the starting point of Mosse’s work, which twisted traditional photographic realism in developing a visual vocabulary to make the forgotten tragedy visible.

Mosse’s work was exhibited in the first two galleries in the West Wing of the museum. The exhibition was conceptualized in two parts, one consisting of a selection of Mosse’s photographs from eastern DR Congo and the other presenting The Enclave, a video installation comprised of six video screens of constantly changing emotionally and sensorially loaded images.

SHOCKING PINK SURVEILLANCE FILM

The key device in Mosse’s work was his use of a special 16mm. military surveillance film (Kodak Aerochrome), which registers the invisible spectrum of infrared light reflected by the chlorophyll in green plants, turning natural foliage a shocking pink.

Kodak Aerochrome was originally designed in the early 1940's to reveal camouflage hidden in the landscape. Superseded by contemporary hyperspectral digital cameras, the Aerochrome film went out of production in 2009. This outdated military technology, specifically employed to make the invisible visible, got a new role in Mosse’s artistic project, which utilized its unintentional aesthetic qualities.

Mosse’s hyper-aesthetic color palette broke with the traditional black-and-white style of war photography, a color scheme that historically had been rendered identical to documentary testimonies. For Mosse, The Enclave was an attempt to disturb the dualism between documentation and imagination and to bring “two counter-worlds into collision: art’s potential to represent narratives so painful that they exist beyond language, and photography’s capacity to document specific tragedies and communicate them to the world.”

ARTIST IN A JOURNALISTIC MINEFIELD

Irish artist Richard Mosse (b. 1980) is educated from Goldsmiths, University of London and Yale School of Arts. Mosse is not the stereotypical studio artist, but has a journalistic approach to art making, which brings him to places where a war photographer would usually finds his subjects. In 2010-11 Mosse started travelling in the Demotcratic Republic of Congo.

This travelling first resulted in the photographic series Infra that documents paramilitary groups. In 2012-13, Mosse returned to the Easterne part of the vast country together with the cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and the musician Ben Frost. The purpose this time to collect material for the video installation The Enclave.

The installation premiered at the 2013 Venice Biennale in the Irish Pavilion, and in 2014 Mosse received the prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for his work.