Richard Mosse

Platon (North Kivu, Eastern Congo), 2012
Digital c-print
Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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RICHARD MOSSE (Ireland, 1980)

The Enclave, 2013
6-channel video installation
16 mm infrared Klm transferred to HD video
39’ 25’’
Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York


The Enclave is a project that led artist Richard Mosse to experience first-hand one of the more serious, and lesser known, tragedies on the contemporary geopolitical scene: the ongoing conflict between the central government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a series of local militias for control of the provinces of North and South Kivu, a war zone in which atrocities are perpetrated daily and involve the civilian population.
The images and sounds communicate the reality in all its fragmentary incoherence. Mosse responds to the instability of the territory by presenting long visual fragments on six different screens which the spectator is forced to move between, in a sort of multi-focal landscape, a continual flow of images and sounds.  Mosse uses two special technical and artistic devices, which are the initial keys to interpreting his work.  First, the film used: Aerochrome, infrared technology developed in the 1940s for military surveillance to detect armaments that were concealed by vegetation. To this element is added the acoustic dimension, with a soundtrack made entirely from sounds, noises and voices from the original location, edited by the composer Ben Frost, also present in the field during filming.
The result is a garish and eerie spectacle, something between fantasy and nightmare, between beauty and horror, a negation of anything true-to-life typical of documentary practice. Mosse in fact attempts to invalidate various characteristics typical of reportage photography, like the recognisability of the subjects or the matching of the subject represented and the aesthetic language. The spectator is thus destabilized and forced into a strong visual and emotional experience.   The images tinge with shocking pink the violence which is never seen directly in his images—though we hear sounds and see traces of it left on the landscape and on the bodies of men and women—at times dwelling on details that almost offend our common sense of decency.
As the artist himself declares: “The power that distinguishes art lies in its ability to render visible and formulable things that are denied the possibility of language.” In this sense, one can find a link in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, but above all in the landscapes of 19th-century artistic tradition, in particular the “sublime” as a category through which to read the relationship between artwork and reality: rendering, through aestheticization, the ambiguity of the complex and in large part unfathomable reality of the civil war in the Congo.
The Enclave
does not allow us any firm ground, a perspective from which to contemplate reality according to conventional standards like good and evil.  Mosse does not explain, or tell a story, or illustrate, nor does he seek symbols for a possible further meaning.  The Enclave seems to hover between brutality and poetry, between the testimonies of dramatic stories and unusual experiences and the universality of images of Africa at war.


Richard Mosse (1980, Ireland,; lives and works in New York) confronts the major issues in documentary photography and photojournalism today by using artistic techniques that evoke the surreal landscapes of areas of crisis around the world. He holds an MFA in Photography from the Yale School of Art (2008). His most recent project, The Enclave, is currently featured in the Irish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. Other recent solo shows include: (2012) Infra, Galeria Leyendecker, Tenerife; Mois de la Photo, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh; Open Eye, Liverpool; Jack Shainman, New York; Remains Of The Day, Moot Gallery, SCAD Hong Kong; Dewberry Gallery, SCAD Atlanta; Alexander Hall Gallery, SCAD Savannah; (2011) Terrible Beauty: Art, Crisis, Change & The Office of Non-Compliance, Dublin Contemporary, Dublin. A selection of recent group exhibitions include: (2013) Changing States: Contemporary Irish Art & the Francis Bacon Studio, BOZAR Center for Fine Arts, Brussels; (2012) Pigment: Color and Metaphor, Brant Gallery, MassArt , Boston, MA; Public: Collective Identity / Occupied Spaces, Scotiabank CONTACT Festival, Toronto; Immortal Nature, Edel Assanti, London; The Second Seating, Leyendecker Gallery, Tenerife and ARCO, Spain; Amid A Space Between: Irish Artists in America, SFMOMA, The Armory Show and Jack Shainman Gallery. Mosse was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (2011) and Annenberg Fellowship (20062008), as well as a number of residencies including the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin and the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro (North Carolina), both in 2012. His work can be found in a number of public and private collections: Irish Museum of Modern Art, The David Kronn Collection; The Hiscox Collection, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland; Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal; The Martin Z Margulies Collection, Miami; Statoil Art Collection, Oslo.

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