Richard Mosse @ Irish Pavilion, Venice Biennale

Review by Amy Firth | 16 Sep 2013

Upon entering the Irish pavilion on the bank of the Grand Canal, you are met with three monumental images of luscious jungle-scape, the foliage unnervingly rendered in lurid magenta. This alien landscape – unrecognisable in its ludicrous palette – is in fact the Democratic Republic of Congo, the controversial subject of Richard Mosse's film The Enclave. This startling piece of cinema is shot on 16mm infrared film, a defunct military tool used in WWII to identify camouflage within a landscape which recognises an invisible spectrum of light, exposing it in violent pinks. This notion of uncovering the unseen is a trope for Mosse, who unveils the turbulent reality of the Congo.

Realised in an immersive multi-media installation, large suspended screens slice through the exhibition space, encircling the viewer in a myriad of horrors. One haunting shot shows a young girl dancing joyously for the camera seemingly untroubled by a soldier's corpse, heaped next to her at the side of the path. Equally disturbing are the unfaltering stares of boy-soldiers, whose showmanship for the camera casts the gaze back upon both the artist and the viewer, reminding the latter of the intense situation in which the artist finds himself. Shot in collaboration with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, the film’s accompanying soundtrack by Ben Frost uses sounds recorded in the Congo to incredible effect; sweet singing is interspersed with roaring gunfire and heavy machinery.

In this incredible film, Mosse re-evaluates the genre of war photography, exploring its aesthetics and its uneasy power of disseminating empathy in places and times far removed from the subject at hand. The Enclave is not a platform for Mosse to pass judgment or align himself within this conflict; it is ultimately a reminder of art's potential to convey our times, when words fail.

Fondaco Marcello, San Marco 3415 (Calle dei Garzoni), 30124 Venezia, until 24 Nov