Thursday 6 June 2013

Richard Mosse @ The Irish Pavillion, La Biennale di Venezia

All images © Richard Mosse

As the art world descended on Venice for the 55th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia last week for the opening extravaganza, one photographer in particular turned a lot of heads - or so my spies tell me.

Representing Ireland with The Enclave, a major new multi-media installation, Richard Mosse produced this project with his collaborators Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost. Travelling throughout 2012 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, infiltrating armed rebel groups in a war zone plagued by frequent ambushes, massacres and systematic sexual violence, the resulting installation, The Enclave, is the culmination of Mosse’s attempt to rethink war photography. It is a search for more adequate strategies to represent a forgotten African tragedy in which, according to the International Rescue Committee, at least 5.4 million people have died of war-related causes in eastern Congo since 1998.

Reading from the press release, 'a long-standing power vacuum in eastern Congo has resulted in a horrifying cycle of violence, a Hobbesian ‘state of war’, so brutal and complex that it resists communication, and goes unseen in the global consciousness. Mosse brings a discontinued military surveillance film to this situation, representing an intangible conflict with a medium that registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, and was originally designed for camouflage detection. The resulting imagery, shot on 16mm infrared film by cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, renders the jungle war zone in a disorienting psychedelic palette. Ben Frost’s ambient audio composition, comprised entirely of recordings gathered in the field in eastern DRC, hovers bleakly over the unfolding tragedy.'

The Enclave immerses the viewer in a challenging and sinister world, exploring aesthetics in a situation of profound human suffering. In the words of Mosse himself, The Enclave is an attempt to fling “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.”

Aperture Foundation is releasing a new 240 page monograph, with an essay by Jason Stearns, to coincide with the Biennale. Finally, here's a film from our friends at frieze which reveals the stories behind the making of the work and talks about the 'impossible image' that lies at the heart of his work. Bravo Richard!