Photographer and artist Richard Mosse captures the beauty and tragedy of Congo through an immersive, six-screen video art installation, The Enclave. The film was shown in the Irish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, and was the 2014 winner of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. It is currently being exhibited in Melbourne’s NGV until the February 10, 2016.
The cinematography is by Trevor Tweeten, and made me think of the 1964 film Soy Cuba, for its steadicam movements and infrared. The music is composed by Ben Frost, a Melbourne-born artist who lives in Iceland. He traveled with the Irish artist Richard Mosse to the Congo to make field recordings, which he mixed into a minimal electronic score.
One of the things I find so striking about the project is the choice of film stock used. The Enclave is filmed on 16mm color infrared film. With this stock, we see the usual green of the jungle turn into a deep, bright pink, creating a haunting and somewhat beautiful landscape.
Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued reconnaissance infrared film, is a film that was used primarily for camouflage protection in the military in the early 1940s during WWII. The film registers infrared light — invisible to the human eye — and is reflected off the chlorophyll in healthy green plants. The purpose was to make it easier to identify the enemy soldiers in the landscape.
In Congo, it is estimated that 5.4 million people have been died from war-related causes since 1998, yet we don’t really hear anything about this ongoing humanitarian disaster. By choosing to use this infrared film, Mosse aims to register the invisible, and make visible and seeable the unseeable.
Watch the video to hear more about the artist’s experience while making the film.