In candy-colored infrared, Richard Mosse captures the lush Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) landscape, along with the violence that surrounds the region, disorienting the viewer by making war both pretty and nauseating.
“People pay attention to beauty,” the artist said, contradicting traditional political photography aesthetics, which often present straightforward videos in an attempt to make it appear closer to reality and eschew the documentarian’s perspective. Mosse though, wants people to see beneath the surface, through to the undetectable wavelengths, evident in his current show at Jack Shainman Gallery, “The Enclave.”
The antiquated infrared film called Areochrome was originally used by the military to detect camouflage installations from above during the Vietnam War. It is fitting that Mosse appropriate this medium to capture the ongoing conflict in the DRC. “The idea was to use this medium to see into the unseen, to reveal the hidden and make visible the invisible of this forgotten conflict,” said Mosse.
The 39-minute film installation surrounds you with six colossal, double-sided screens, each displaying separate videos erratically, enveloping you from all sides and making it impossible to find a vantage point. Images of a woman giving birth coincide with a funeral and a house being moved, creating an intersection between life, death and displacement, and illustrating the circular nature of the conflict.
Since 1999, 5.4 million people have died as a result of the ongoing civil war in the DRC. In the film, Mosse documents hidden rebel enclaves, sites of human rights violations, and a refuge camp that was destroyed. The events are presented in a circular rather than linear narrative, creating confusion for the viewer.
Mosse worked with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten to create a style of long tracking shot, giving the impression of a ghostly perspective. Most memorable are the panoramic shots going through the crowded refuge camp. Layered with composer Ben Frost’s musical addition on surround sound, the result is haunting and immersive.
“The Enclave” will be on view at the Jack Shainman Gallery through March 22.