Exhibition CAAM - San Antonio Abad
Richard Mosse The Devil you Know
Since 27 April 2014 to 17 August 2014
How do you capture hell on earth? If you’re Richard Mosse, you do so by developing a sublime aesthetics of life in death.
An artist who has made repeated trips to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mosse has chosen to return again and again to depict one of the world’s cruelest conflict zones in hot pinks, lurid reds, and raw fuchsias a vast killing field that has claimed more than 5 million lives since 1998. Spectacular and shocking, his palette infuses otherwise straightforward images of child soldiers, grass-covered battlefields, and human skulls with a toxic neon glow.
Mosse’s photographs, several of them developed for the Irish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennial, picture a fever dream of violence made appallingly real. Shot with disused military surveillance film, Mosse’s material of choice registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, tipping the war zone’s naturalistic greens and browns into searingly sensational psychedelia. Mosse’s pictures also reveal an equally ghostly (infrared?) fear lurking among the Congo’s rolling savannahs and thatch roofed-villages—one that largely evades detection by most “straight” photography. To borrow language from the 18th century aesthetic and political philosopher Edmund Burke, this photographer’s lushly gorgeous prints describe nothing less than “terror”—that ghastly element which constitutes “in all cases whatsoever . . . the ruling principle of the sublime.”
Besides provoking unsettling reactions from a public inured by 24/7 news coverage to images of faraway suffering, Mosse’s still and moving pictures also touch on what the artist has called “the limits of perception.” His crimson-tainted pictures claim the following: What you see when a photographer exposes the often abstract nature of protracted war to the camera’s lens is never unvarnished fact or truth—it’s just a light-tinged impression. Or as the artist put in a written commentary on his photographs published in the pages of The New Yorker: “The conflict in the Congo is like a palimpsest of different wars—by turns tribal, territorial, national and international—layering each other in obscure and unusual ways. I wanted to try and bring these two very different things—infrared military surveillance film and the Congo’s suffering—together, to brush against the grain.”
Exhibition title: The Devil you Know
Curator: Christian Viveros-Fauné
Dates: 27.04.2014 to 17.08.2014
Place: CAAM - San Antonio Abad
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Spain.
Collaborates: Galería Leyendecker (Tenerife)
The room staff is available to visitors for any questions or information regarding exposure