Mosse documents a haunting landscape touched by appalling human tragedy in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where 5.4 million people have died of war related causes since 1998. Shot on discontinued military surveillance film, the resulting imagery registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, and renders the jungle warzone in disorienting psychedelic hues. At the project’s heart are the points of failure of documentary photography, and its inability to adequately communicate this complex and horrific cycle of violence.
This body of work is mind blowing. It is arguably one of the most unique and memorable exhibitions I have ever seen that just keeps on giving every time I look at the work. It is just too full of beauty and ugliness to comprehend in one viewing, one sitting, one moment – it needs time, which is something war can so easily take from you without warning. The piece just brings so many emotions to the surface yet challenges them and makes you question your own response to it – is it acceptable to find such exquisiteness in such a tragedy? (Shakespeare may have argued yes!) Even so, you cannot deny the complete splendour and magnificence of the images, especially if you are lucky enough to see them exhibited. Aside from the visual appeal of the photos, the messages behind them are also most appealing, Mosse says “ I feel that the real is only effectively communicated through shocks to the imagination, precipitated by the Sublime” he is bringing us a new way to regard the barbarity of war and how it is (and has been) reported to us over the years.
Listening to him speak about his work only amplifies the authenticity and courageous attitude this pink world projects into our own lives and challenges how we perceive war and the realities of such. By displaying the footage on separate screens he is forcing the viewer to edit what they choose to see, thus determining their own reality of the world portrayed to them. German writer Christy Lange says of The Enclave “War is not black and white, but abstract and complex… The stylistic range of portrayals in Mosse’s work is what art allows for- a representation less tethered to the ‘reality’ of war, and as untethered as one might find the experience of witnessing it.” Lange, C. (2014). At the Edge of The Invisible. In: Eicker, E Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014. London: The Photographer’s Gallery. p84.
In terms of my own work this has encouraged me to experiment with how colour adapts a persons perception of reality, particularly within landscape, and how going against the rules/medium of documentary photography changes and challenges peoples understanding of what they’ve felt they’ve always known and stood by as the truth. In the interview below Mosse is explaining his issues with documentary photography and elucidates the “dumbness” of the medium, “you need to get your subject there in front of the camera lens and if you can’t do that then you can’t take the picture”, this reminds me of Simon Norfolk’s The Hebrides for he too is depicting a document of something you cannot see. Both photographers are photographing a reality within the make up of the land around them, without always physically showing the real of it. Mosse goes on to say “If you can seduce the viewer and you can make them feel aesthetic pleasure, regarding a landscape in which human rights violations happen all the time, then you can put them into a very problematic place for themselves- they feel ethically compromised”. Can audiences decipher what they see at face value to be a beautiful scene from the historic events of the land, blood watering the sublime vegetation. Without being given further information, the audience are duped into thinking such a scene is a haven of bliss. It takes information and education to understand a complete story and Mosse gives you just that – yet contrasts the harsh truth with beautiful images, confusing in the context of war. Documentary photography gives you the ability to mesmerise and enchant your viewer without them understanding the image they are seeing, then upon explanation of the piece you can shock and revolt them, leaving them confused about their own reaction to the images they are seeing.
This mix of emotions and use of colour interests me and is an avenue I should like to explore for my landscape module.