Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Stunning Congo artwork shows conflict in a different light

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Wed June 5, 2013
Artist Richard Mosse is well known for his infrared images of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Artist Richard Mosse is well known for his infrared images of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
HIDE CAPTION
Platon, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012
Tombstone Blues, North Kivu, Congo
Safe From Harm, South Kivu, Congo
Come Out X, North Kivu, Congo, 2012
Thousands Are Sailing I, North Kivu, 2012
'The Enclave'
'The Enclave' - installation view
Still from 'The Enclave'
Still from 'The Enclave'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Artist Richard Mosse has taken infrared images of eastern Congo
  • His artwork shows rolling landscapes and heavily armed militia
  • His latest work,"The Enclave," is a multimedia installation blending stills, video and audio
  • It opened last weekend at the Venice Biennale in Italy

(CNN) -- As you step closer to the artwork, it's as if you're venturing into a crimson-hued dreamscape, a psychedelic realm immersed in feverish landscapes and eerie sounds.

Yet, this is no dream.

Using a special and discontinued technology, which registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, Irish artist and photographer Richard Mosse has captured beautiful and challenging imagery of people and landscapes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Designed by the U.S. military in the 1940s for camouflage detection, the Kodak Aerochrome film renders the landscape in an unexpected light, turning shades of lush green into dramatic pinks and glowing reds.

Richard Mosse: "Suspicious Minds"
Courtesy of Richard Mosse and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

The result is both spectacular and shocking: Rolling hills appear dotted with candy-coated trees; river valleys are covered with pink savannah grasses; gun-holding soldiers, clad in purple uniforms, stroll under darkened skies.

Set against the horrors of eastern DRC's humanitarian disaster, where more than five million people have died due to war-related causes since 1998, Mosse's surreal palette presents an alternative view of the region's complex situation.

The pink is so surprising and shocking and unnatural that really makes people stop.
Richard Mosse, artist

Read this: Why the world ignores Congo conflict

It's this juxtaposition of alluring panoramas and defiant militia, of haunting beauty and unsettling violence, that forces viewers to pause and think.

"The idea was to use this medium to see into the unseen, to reveal the hidden and make visible the invisible of this forgotten conflict," says Mosse, 33. "That works really on a very simple level through the color palette," he adds. "The pink is so surprising and shocking and unnatural that really makes people stop."

Mosse first used infrared film in his highly praised 2011 photographic series "Infra," also about eastern DRC. He now takes that project a step further with "The Enclave," a multimedia installation that opened last weekend at the Irish Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in Italy.

Richard Mosse, "The Enclave" - Photo: Tom Powel
Courtesy of Richard Mosse and Jack Shainman Gallery

"The Enclave" is centred on a six-screen projection of a nearly 40-minute documentary, shot on 16mm infrared film.

Throughout large parts of last year, Mosse traveled across eastern DRC with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost. Embedded with armed militia, they captured video, stills and audio to create a powerful installation about the region's rebel groups and their surrounding communities.

"There's no plot, there's no narrator, there's no dialogue -- it's very much a video art piece," says Mosse, who first travelled to eastern DRC in 2010.

Read this - War reporter: 'My camera is my weapon'

"Throughout, the camera it's very much a documentary work," says Mosse. "It is unscripted; we just really go into the warzone and it comes to us. We can't really make things up; it's really what we had the luck to capture and what we turned our sights on."

Mosse says that at the heart of the project is an effort to bring "two counter-worlds into collision: art's potential to represent narratives so painful that they exist beyond language, and photography's capacity to document specific tragedies and communicate them to the world."

"The Enclave" is exhibited at Fondaco Marcello in Venice until November 24.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Fri June 27, 2014
lake retba, senegal
On the edge of Senegal's Cap Vert peninsula, a lush coastal region, lies Lake Retba ... a coral pink lake.
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Meet the Rolling Rockets, the skate soccer team made up of polio survivors.
updated 6:09 AM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
Italian photographer Marco Casino spent a month capturing 'staff riders', or train surfers, in Katlehong, a South African township about 20 miles southeast of Johannesburg.
A group of South African youths have taken up the deadly sport of train surfing. For them, it's a shot at redemption.
updated 12:37 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
Vintage helicopters, ziplines, private flying safaris offer new, spectacular views of wildlife and rugged terrain.
updated 6:20 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
updated 5:27 AM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
The Hadza are one of the oldest people on Earth. Today, they battle for land, and continued survival.
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
No one knows what causes "fairy circles" in Namibia's desert. A new study, however, may have solved the mystery.
updated 6:59 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
South African photographer Frank Marshall captured Botswana's heavy metal rockers as part of his Renegades series.
You might not associate Botswana with rock music, but in recent years its heavy metal scene has been making a name for itself.
updated 6:17 AM EST, Wed January 29, 2014
The ruined town of Great Zimbabwe is part of a kingdom that flourished almost 1,000 years ago, and a bridge to the past.
updated 6:50 AM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Unhappy with Liberia's image on the Internet, a photographer decided to present his own view, using GIFs.
updated 10:15 AM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
updated 6:16 AM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
Makoko Floating School
A new wave of African architects are creating remarkable buildings in the continent, and beyond.
updated 6:30 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Vintage clothes are proving a hit with fashionistas across Africa, as retro goes back to the future.
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.
ADVERTISEMENT