War through rose-tinted glasses.
The Enclave, the latest multi-media installation by Irish-born documentary photographer Richard Mosse, who represented Ireland at the 55th International Biennale of Venice, is simply mind-blowing. This stunning piece of work has received widespread international acclaim and is currently being exhibited at FOAM (Amsterdam).
When Mosse found out in 2009 that Kodak was bound to discontinue the production of their 16 mm infrared film, designed by the US military and used during the Second World War for camouflage detection, he saw the opportunity to experience a conflict zone through a different filter. He bought up Kodak’s last supply of film and headed off to the perpetually conflict-ridden eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The work consists of six large screens depicting the brutality of the conflict in the forgotten war in the Congo. Even though since 1998 nearly 5,4 million people have died to war-related causes, the ongoing conflict has received very little media attention. The war is fought in primitive ways, with AK-47s, butchering machetes and systematic sexual violence, which unlike modern warfare doesn’t leave immediate visual traces of destruction. But the humanitarian disaster and social impact is enormous.
Mosse posed himself the question if it would be possible to change perception by changing the colour through which we see and how to explore the potential of contemporary art to make visible what is beyond the limits of language.
Although reality offers us more colours than the human eye can perceive, we have become adjusted to black & white photography considering it is closer to the Truth. So how much more constructed can a pink photograph be compared to a b&w image? The result of this colour-shifting work is a psychedelic, magenta-coloured image of the rebel filled forest of eastern Congo.
The artist has used beauty, the sharpest tool in the box, to make people feel something, because the combination of human suffering and beauty creates ethical problems in the human mind. And indeed, looking at his work you feel esthetic pleasure, which puts you in a problematic space where you feel ethically compromised. While at the same time it offers a moment of self-awareness, that forces you to rethink about how war imagery is constructed in the first place.
* The installation is a collaboration with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and minimalist composer Ben Frost.
The Impossible Image: