Beauty in Conflict

The Impossible Image

Artist and photographer Richard Mosse’s new project, entitled “The Enclave”, was born out of a curious experiment. When he found himself with a wealth of 16mm infrared film, Mosse was at a loss for how to use it. The film, initially developed for use by the military, captures light beyond the visible spectrum and, because it reflects off the chlorophyll in green plants, captures green parts of an image in bright shades of pink. The surreal, almost fairy-tale look of these photos would not seem to lend itself to gritty documentation of ongoing atrocities in the Congo; indeed, they lend a certain levity to subject matter deserving of the greatest sobriety.

In the project, which will run at this year’s Venice Biennale, Mosse plays with this clash, crafting haunting and self-reflexive imagery that, far from being irreverent, only further dramatizes the horrible events he depicts. In so doing, Mosse draws into question the very role of art and beauty in relation to tragedy and violence. Insofar as it forces the viewer into conflict and reveals the unseen, the infrared film makes the story more poignant, more memorable, and more real.