Monday, June 2, 2014

Enclave: Congo in pink

Art seldom translates well over the radio.

But when I heard about the work of Richard Mosse on NPR, I knew that I needed to get online and further investigate the art.

Mosse is an Irish artist and photographer who has spent many years in the conflict-torn Congo.  In documenting this landscape of violence and human rights transgressions, he made the inspired choice to use a now defunct form of infrared film once employed by the military to locate camouflaged installations by air.  The result is eastern Congo rendered in kaleidoscopic Technicolor and lurid hues of bubble gum pink (see above).  These pieces evolved into a multimedia installation he calls The Enclave.   Quote Mosse:

"When viewer is seduced by the beauty, usually they realize that they're deriving aesthetic pleasure from human suffering.  My approach was to try to make people feel something. So it's a kind of advocacy of seeing, to make people see. It's about perception."

I see what he means.  Examine the above shot.  Through the filter of the film, the lush and normally green vegetation is rendered more like stretched out cotton candy.  Our view becomes oblique.  We are transported to somewhere surreal and non-existent to our way of understanding.  That is much in line with our perceptions of the Congo.  This conflict, where 5.4 million people have died since 1998, is scarcely reported in mainstream media, especially in America.  While I'm aware that there are numerous flashpoints and wide swaths of extreme poverty in Africa, I certainly didn't know about this level of warfare in the Congo.  This goes back to Mosse's point about perception.

"To go back to the film medium itself, it sees infrared light. Infrared light is invisible to human eye. So it really is about registering the unseen and overlooked. And the eastern Congo conflict is massively overlooked."

Indeed it might as well take place in a far away, imaginary land of carnation pink dirt, fuchsia foliage, and rivers of pluvial waters of a green hue like the rinse bowl for a grade school watercolors class.

The multimedia installation has done quite well for Mosse, garnering him the prestigious Deutsche Borse Photography Prize.  I very much recommend clicking the links and going through the galleries.  Fair warning: given the nature of the subject, there are images that may be disturbing to sensitive viewers.

Then again, maybe that's the problem.  

If you're interested in what's happening in the Congo, please take a moment to look at a wonderful effort called EduCongo and the work being done by the One campaign.

The ESE podcast is available at iTunes!

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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