Making the Invisible Visible
There is no shortage of contemporary artists exploring the relationship between their artistic practise and new technologies or scientific discoveries. This is evident in the currently ongoing Venice Biennale of 2013, with artists like Yuri Ancarani’s Da Vinci - a film which can be seen as an aesthetic investigation of a highly sophisticated piece of medical equipment. Unfortunately, as is a risk with works exploring new technologies, the technology itself takes the spotlight, with any sort of artistic agendas playing second fiddle.
Alternatively, there are artists investigating or incorporating outdated technologies into their practice, with a very different result. The most moving and utterly fantastic example of this is Richard Mosse’s work for the Irish Pavilion, entitled The Enclave. The six-screen video installation created for the Biennale is a culmination of Mosse’s work Infra, a series of photographs of rebel groups and conflict in the Congo with infrared film. For The Enclave, Mosse works once more with the discontinued Kodak Aerochrome, a 16mm heat sensitive film originally used by the military and famous for camouflage detection in the 1940s. As with most discontinued technologies, the film is incredibly rare and poses the additional challenge of only lasting 7 days outside of the freezer.
The result is a completely surreal, psychedelic palette of pinks, reds, purples and blues making the 40 odd-minutes of footage breathtakingly, if not hauntingly, beautiful. The footage is shot with an Arriflex camera, giving rounded edges to the images - an aesthetic that is inherently nostalgic, or reminiscent of films from another era. The screens are installed in a converted 17th century warehouse, with columns throughout the space, inviting the viewer into a disorienting, immersive experience. Some viewers stay fixed in one spot, transfixed, while others pace throughout the dark space, gaining different perspectives of the multi-screen installation.
Conceptually, Mosse has taken this discontinued medium, one which makes an invisible type of light visible, and applied this to the overlooked tragedy of the Congo’s ongoing conflict. How can the history of photography bring light to a humanitarian disaster that is increasingly ignored? Mosse brings together these seemingly disparate notions, which are both in a sense forgotten, and forces his audience to take a second look. Becoming critically engaged in a topic such as the perpetual violence of the Congo leaves an artist open to controversy, however Mosse has taken this opportunity to pose fundamental questions about the nature of war photography, whether for the sake of art or journalism, and pushes the limits of the power of an image to communicate what words cannot.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Mosse and his work, his website, www.RichardMosse.com is a great resource.
- Katherine Lawson