Artist Spotlight: Richard Mosse / by Aaron Levi Simic

One of my favourite artists is Richard Mosse, he has managed to create works that not only disable the viewer through their seductive colour but also manages to pack a huge political punch. Through is use of infrared film, he transports the viewer into other-worldly landscapes that could easily pass as a backdrop to a fashion editorial but the deeper you move into his work, you are presented with signs of a war-stricken land. Child soldiers, dead bodies, machine guns and skulls are a disruptive narrative against luscious landscapes. 

I remember seeing his show at the Photographers' Gallery and being mesmerised by the huge photographs. The layout of the exhibition lent itself perfectly to Mosse's cause as the impressive prints of a war-free landscape disarm the viewer of its reportage message. The more I inspected his photographs, the more I found myself being drawn into them - almost as if I was Alice in Wonderland and could fall into the photograph.  

As I moved around the exhibition, the haunting reality of the war and massacre in the republic of Congo become more apparent. The fun, inviting tones of his work quickly gave way to a more sinister side and the red leaves seemed to be soaked with the blood of five million victims. I was initially very angry with Mosse. How dare he glamourise such a viscous act or war and turn it into a utopia of pink tones. How dare he capitilise on a people's suffering. How dare he trivalise mass-genocide and wrap it up in a metaphoric acid-pink blow. 

But my anger at Mosse subsided into a great love for him. I wasn't angry at Mosse but angry at the world: I was angry at the war and the unnecessarily suffering of the people he documented; I was angry I didn't know about the atrocities in Congo and I angry at my own ignorance and helplessness. Mosse has achieved what he set out to, he has presented a blurred line between art and documentary photography that challenges the viewer as well as the medium it is presented as. Susan Sontag, in her book Regarding The Pain Of Others, she argues the limitations of shock value in relation to society's desensitization of violence, war and famine through constant exposure to it. 

Richard Mosse, Vintage Violence, 2011 from the project Infra

Richard Mosse, Vintage Violence, 2011 from the project Infra

The bubblegum-pink countryside acts as a barrier between the viewer and the Congo. It highlights our isolation to the conflict, which in turn allows the us to take ownership of our detachment. The acid trip of Mosse's work removes us so far from our own reality, that it can only raise questions on how we view and treat the Other. Too often, as a society, it is easy to become detached from what we view as 'the Other' as we can't begin to understand their situation. Which is why there was a much larger condemnation for the Paris attacks then any of the countless bombings in Syria - the bombed streets of the Middle East seem a world away from our Western comforts.