Richard Mosse will represent Ireland with The Enclave, a major new multi-media installation at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The Commissioner and Curator is Anna O’Sullivan, Director of the Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland. Ireland at Venice is an initiative of Culture Ireland and the Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
Throughout 2012, Richard Mosse and his collaborators Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost travelled to Eastern Congo and inserted themselves as journalists within 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 project, Infra, which employs a discontinued military reconnaissance film that registers infrared light – an invisible spectrum – and was originally designed for camouflage detection. Mosse uses this film to reveal a cancerous yet unseen humanitarian tragedy with a disturbing psychedelic palette, posing aesthetic questions in a situation of profound human suffering.
The resulting imagery, shot on 16mm colour infrared film by Trevor Tweeten, renders the Sub-Saharan jungle war zone in sickly hues of crimson, purple, teal blue and hot pink. Ben Frost’s ambient audio composition, comprised entirely of organic Congolese sound recordings, hovers bleakly over the unfolding tragedy. At the work’s heart is a series of first hand women’s witness testimonies, calmly recounting horrific massacres. These tragic soliloquies are laid over imagery of posturing rebels.
“I am beginning to perceive this vicious loop,” Mosse writes from Goma, “of subject and object. The camera provokes an involuntary unraveling, a mutual hijack of authorship and autonomy.”Neither scripted nor directed, Congolese rebels return the camera’s gaze in a distinctly confrontational and accusatory manner. The lens seems to mesmerise and provoke everyone it encounters in The Enclave, including rebels fighting under the command of those sought for trial by the International Criminal Court. This precarious face-off reveals inherent ambiguities of masculinity,defiance,vulnerability, and indictment.
These narratives defy human comprehension, and push past the boundaries of adequate representation. The Enclave is an attempt to recoup ethical agency for aesthetics. Disregarding the rules and protocol of journalism, and working independently of humanitarian and UN infrastructures, Mosse, Tweeten and Frost have created a discomfiting and sinister world to penetrate sensibilities and make this ineffable nightmare visible.
Richard Mosse’s (b. Kilkenny, Ireland, 1980) practice resides at the intersection between documentary photography and contemporary art. Drawing from the Romantics, Surrealism, psychedelia, punk, and modern military reconnaissance technologies, he seeks to challenge and transgress traditional conventions of war photography through unmitigated aesthetic strategies in situations of tragedy and conflict. His work has been exhibited at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Barbican Art Gallery, London; Bass Museum, Miami; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; Kunsthaus Munich; Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Open Eye Liverpool; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Mosse has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Performing and Visual Arts, and a Visual Arts Bursary from the Irish Arts Council. Mosse holds an MFA in photography from Yale University and a postgraduate diploma in fine art from Goldsmiths College, London. He also holds a first-class BA in English literature from King’s College London and an MA in cultural studies from the London Consortium (ICA, AA, Tate, Birkbeck). Aperture Foundation and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting co-published his first monograph, Infra, in 2012. Mosse is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. He will represent Ireland at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2013.