For the past three years, photographer Richard Mosse embedded himself amongst rebel groups in the bloody political strife gripping eastern Congo. Alongside his collaborators, cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost, Mosse’s efforts have culminated in “The Enclave,” a multimedia installation that incorporates photography, 16mm film, and ambient audio composed from field recordings. Using Kodak Aerochrome infrared film, a discontinued military surveillance technology originally designed to detect camouflage, Mosse captures the Congolese landscape in unnervingly saturated shades of pink, red, violet, and cyan. “The work confronts the viewer with a challenging and sinister world, exploring aesthetics in a situation of profound human suffering,” Mosse says.
Curated by Anna O’Sullivan, “The Enclave,” on view at the Ireland Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, perverts the function of traditional documentary war photography and adds an additional investigation of aesthetics. “The effect is far removed from conventional war photography, which generally involves a naturalistic style, aspiring to sober transparency and journalistic ethics of impartiality,” Mosse says. “ ‘The Enclave,’ meanwhile, constructs a heightened world of magical realism within the jungle war zone.” The non-narrative work contrasts the staggering beauty of the Congo’s landscape with the horrors occurring within it. Largely portrait-driven, Mosse’s lens focuses on the machismo posturing of Congolese rebels, the population’s continual transience between makeshift refugee camps, and the vitriolic tension between the observer and the observed. The Enclave seeks to heighten the visibility of this conflicted area while contextualizing human suffering in a problematically beautiful visual sphere.
“At the heart of my work is an attempt to bring two counter-worlds into collision,” Mosse says. “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.”
As an extension of the exhibition, Aperture Foundation will release the limited-edition monograph The Enclave, featuring photographs and film stills from the exhibition. Select boxed sets will be available with a poster by Mosse, a transcription of the film, and a seven-inch record of Frost’s ambient composition.