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Conflict in Technicolor: Richard Mosse

War photography sits uneasily with fine art, but Mosse's installation at the FoMu in Antwerp combines straight reportage with an unworldly technical process.

The Enclave is ostensibly a work about the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. For his remarkable and unsettling imagery, Mosse has used Kodak Aerochrome, an infrared film originally developed for aerial reconnaissance during the Second World War (the company describes it as 'sometimes effective when used to photograph objects painted to imitate foliage... in the resulting color infrared transparency, the areas of healthy deciduous foliage will be magenta or red, and the painted objects may be purple or blue'). The vividly rendered rainforest and vegetation is contrasted with the people in the centre of this ongoing catastrophic conflict, who look as if they have been transplanted onto another planet, displaced from reality. 

 

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Psychedelic jungle landscape

Mosse's attempts to challenge traditional notions of war photography and confronts the viewer with a disorienting and physically immersive multimedia installation. For The Enclave the artist collaborated with filmmaker Trevor Tweeten and sound artist Ben Frost. At the FoMu the project comprises six large screens with twelve point surround sound, creating a layered and kaleidoscopic experience, highly aestheticized yet firmly grounded in harsh reality. It is a looping, non-linear narrative which documents civilians fleeing massacre, Mai Mai militia preparing for battle, as well as M23 rebels moving on, fighting for, and finally taking the city of Goma. This humanitarian disaster unfolds in a landscape of extraordinary beauty, on the shores of Lake Kivu. 

 

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The video screens bring these environments to uneasy life. Using the same infrared processes, the footage transports us right there, in the heart of these tense and fractured communities. The result is powerful and it’s truly incredible how Mosse succeeds at forcing us to look with fresh eyes upon an unjustly forgotten part of the world, whose problems and stories have been failed by conventional media.

 

 
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The Enclave at Fomu runs from 27.06.2014 to 11.11.2014 

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