LONDON.- Barbican Art Gallery
has invited conceptual documentary photographer and Deutsche Börse Photography Prize winner Richard Mosse to create an immersive multi-channel video installation in the Curve. In collaboration with composer Ben Frost and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, Mosse has been working with a new, powerful telephoto military camera that can detect the human body from a distance of more than 30km and accurately identify an individual from 6.3km, day or night. He has used this technology to create an artwork about the migration crisis unfolding across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Narratives of the journeys made by refugees and illegal migrants are captured by this thermal camera which records the biological trace of human life. Projected across three 8 metre-wide screens, the video installation is accompanied by a visceral soundtrack blurring ambient field recordings with synthetic sound design to create an overwhelming, immersive experience. Richard Mosse: Incoming opens in the Curve on Wednesday 15 February 2017.
At a time when, according to the UN, the world is experiencing the largest migration of people since World War II, with more than a million people fleeing to Europe by sea in 2015 escaping war, climate change, persecution and poverty Richard Mosses film presents a portrait of migrants made with a camera that sees as a missile sees. The film bears witness to significant chapters in recent world events, mediated through an advanced weapons-grade camera technology that reads only heat, and is blind to skin colour, capturing glowing bodies crossing dangerous waters, drowning at sea, or sleeping in makeshift camps, presenting a story of humans struggling against the elements for survival.
Richard Mosse said: I am European. I am complicit. I wanted to foreground this perspective in a way, to try to see refugees and illegal immigrants as our governments see them. I wanted to enter into that logic in order to create an image that reveals it. So I chose to represent these stories, really a journey or series of journeys, using an ambivalent and perhaps sinister new European weapons camera technology. The camera is intrusive of individual privacy, yet the imagery that this technology produces is so dehumanised the person literally glows that the medium anonymizes the subject in ways that are both insidious and humane. Working against the cameras intended purpose, my collaborators and I listened carefully to the camera, to understand what it wanted to do and then tried to reconcile that with these harsh, disparate, unpredictable and frequently tragic narratives of migration and displacement.
Mosse is renowned for work that challenges documentary photography. For Infra (2011) and The Enclave (2013), a six-channel installation commissioned by the Irish Pavilion for the Venice Biennale, Mosse employed a now discontinued 16mm colour infrared film called Kodak Aerochrome that transformed the lush green landscape of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo into vivid hues of pink to create a surreal dreamscape. Questioning the ways in which war photography is constructed, Mosses representation of the ongoing armed conflict in eastern Congo advocates a new way of looking. In Breach (2009), Mosse embedded with the US Army in Iraq to document American military occupation of Saddam Husseins palace architecture. He has also worked extensively along the US-Mexico border, Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, the Balkans, Haiti, Pakistan, Iran, and other locations.
Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: We are delighted to have co-commissioned Richard Mosse to make this utterly compelling new film work for The Curve. Blurring the boundaries of journalism and conceptual documentary photography, this is a haunting and humane portrait of the millions who are fleeing from wars and persecution.
At least two years in the making, Mosse illuminates a tragedy that has unfolded without us seeming to have the means to prevent it, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions that remains largely hidden and continues to ask questions of us all.
Richard Mosse was born in 1980 in Ireland and is based in New York. He earned a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, London in 2005 and an MFA in Photography from Yale School of Art in 2008. He represented Ireland in the 55th Venice Biennale with The Enclave in 2013. He is a recipient of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2014, Yales Poynter Fellowship in Journalism, the B3 Award at the Frankfurt Biennial, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant, and a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship. Mosse has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally at venues such as Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk; FOAM, Amsterdam; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Reykjavík Art Museum, Iceland; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Ireland; and most recently, Akademie der Künste, Berlin. Richard Mosse is currently in the shortlist for the prestigious global award in photography and sustainability, Prix Pictet, due to be announced in May 2017.