RICHARD MOSSE'S photographs of war are sensational, but not in an exploitative sense. They pulse with neon colors, rich textures, and bold characters. Assault rifles peer out from magenta jungles, and blue rivers wind through hot-pink hills.
For his multimedia installation The Enclave, Mosse documented the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo using Kodak Aerochrome film. A discontinued 16mm film stock, Aerochrome was first developed for military surveillance purposes, specifically to detect camouflage; it senses infrared light and transforms green vegetation into psychedelic pinks and reds. Last year Mosse represented Ireland at the 55th Venice Biennial with The Enclave, and his stunning and beguiling images from the Congo went viral on the internet last year.
Mosse uses the principles of aesthetics and applies them to an atrocity. (According to the International Rescue Committee, there've been at least 5.4 million war-related deaths in the Congo between 1998 and 2007.) It's a dissonance that causes ears to stand up. As Mosse said in a documentary about the project, "If you're trying to make people feel something, if you're able to make it beautiful, they'll sit up and listen. And often if you make something that's derived from human suffering or from war... that creates an ethical problem in the viewer's mind—then they're confused and angry and disoriented. This is great, because you've got them to actually think about the act of perception."
For a Design Week event titled Design and the Experience of Art, Brian Ferriso (executive director at the Portland Art Museum) and Chris Riley (studioriley) will present a preview at the Hollywood Theatre of Mosse's video installation, which gives a sense of the artist's infiltration into the rebel groups in the Congo. Later, in November, the Portland Art Museum will give over an entire floor to Mosse's exhibit, which will include large prints of the photographs along with the immersive video installation. A little bonus: The Portland Art Museum is the first museum in the United States to show The Enclave.
Design and the Experience of Art Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy, Wed Oct 8, 8 pm, $10