Art review: Richard Mosse, The Enclave

Artist Richard Mosse at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin with his installation The Enclave. Photo: Maxwells

Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin

Richard Mosse’s installation The Enclave was a highlight of the 2013 Venice Biennale.

The Kilkenny-born artist has made it his mission to reinvent war photography, using a type of infra red film — Kodak Aerochrome — once used by the American military, and now discontinued. The film gives his images an otherworldly purple glow. Presented in a gallery context, they challenge the idea of ‘conflict fatigue’, the over-familiarity with traditional images of war that cause newspaper and magazine readers to simply turn the page.

The Enclave features four of Mosse’s images in one room, and a series of five films in the other.

Mosse made the films in collaboration with the cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost. The three men spent two years infiltrating rebel groups in the notoriously fractious East Congo, winning sufficient trust that they could record both the soldiers and those displaced by ethnic violence.

The films are non-narrative in character. They overlap, so visitors cannot really watch one without taking in at least some of the others. This presentation perhaps mirrors the confusion of East Congo, but the images are so beautiful that you do wish they were allowed more room to breathe. The most fascinating follows a path through a seemingly endless refugee camp: small boys flee before the camera, which lingers over a middle-aged man cradling a sickly child.

Mosse’s photographs, shot in North Kivu in the Eastern Congo, are named after songs and are epic in scale. Mosse’s concern in these images is to record the effects of war on the landscape. Their impact is not quite as powerful as those of other photographs Mosse has shown, of rebel soldiers in the countryside, but if his aim is to jolt gallery-goers out of their complacency, he has certainly succeeded.

The Enclave runs at the RHA until March 12


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