Richard Mosse - The Congo in infra-red film

Whenever I read a press release my usual first thought is "I wish I had written that!" immediately followed by "but why are they trying to sell me something I already own/know?". You can read the exhibition press release from the Jack Shainman Gallery HERE, it's well written and explains what Richard Mosse does to obtain all of the purple and pink hues. I will just talk about what I thought of the exhibition.

I had already seen a couple of Richard Mosse's prints and was intrigued to see more. They are nothing less than striking with the juxtaposition of violence (militia, guns and army) on top of a landscape that is coloured in warm pink, purple and red. Knowing what I know about the Congo, meaning the years and years of civil war, unrest, millions of deaths, poverty, systematic sexual violence and the guerrilla warfare tactics performed on civilians by multiple militias, makes these photos even more powerful. The Congo is DANGEROUS. For everyone. It's no wonder people don't care to talk about it, let alone go there on vacation. You only really venture into the Congo if you are a journalist intent on telling the truth about what happens inside the country, you work for a non-profit, or you have a sense of adventure which borders on the edge of self-destruction (see Joseph Conrad or, more recently, Tim Butcher). But without people like Richard Mosse, who actually go to this country and document what they see, no one would really see what the country actually looks like.

Tell me... How many of you reading this know that during this last week general elections were held in the Congo? That the Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a large producer of copper and diamonds? That with a strategic set up of public transportation and hydro-electric power the Congo could become a wealthy and powerful nation in Africa? But that since the late 80's, war and violence have created one of the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world (the numbers of deaths associated with these wars are around the 5 million mark).

The Congo is beautiful, extreme, huge and very daunting. More than luscious rain forests, waterways, mountains, always hot and humid, and raw. There are places where nobody lives, and places where you wouldn't think anybody could survive, but they do. You just have to look at Richard Mosse's landscape photos of the mountains that go on forever, with the grazing cows - seemingly peaceful images in a land of never-ending conflict.

I think my main question revolves around whether this is art or photo-journalism? In a sense isn't photo-journalism art too? Mosse uses a specific type of infrared-sensitive, false color reversal film called Kodak Aerochrome, that used to be used by the military to detect camouflage in green landscape (hence the fact that it turns the landscape into all these different hues). I don't know if he does any further editing on the photos once they are developed (I would like to know more about that part), but the end result is deeply striking. I just hope that these photographs can be considered as both art and photo-journalism, the former because they are so GOOD, and the latter because they depict a country where violence is the main form of communication and that the rest of the world doesn't really care about. Just look at his photo of the bombed out and abandoned UN building and think about it.

Richard Mosse's exhibition, Infra, is being displayed at the Jack Shainman Gallery until December 22nd. More information here: Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse Official Website

Kodak Aerochrome (discontinued)

The “other” Nick Cave

I think you should feel blessed if you find yourself named Nick Cave. This name seems to be synonymous with wonderful artistic talent. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love, adore and admire Nick Cave (musician, novelist, poet), but today I was introduced to another artist by the name of Nick Cave thanks to my friend Jono. Nick Cave is an artist/sculptor/dancer, best known for his amazing “Soundsuits”, sculptures that are also costumes and can be worn as such.

Right now, there is a Nick Cave exhibition at the Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea (see link for more details on the location and to read the gallery’s press release on Nick Cave). The exhibition is called “Ever-After” and is comprised of four separate areas, as well as a video. The video contains a reel of Nick Cave and other dancers wearing other suits and dancing, at one point using pogosticks! Pretty amazing seeing as I don’t know how they could see properly as the suits camouflage the individuals completely. While the video itself is a blast of colour and movement, the rest of the exhibition provides a stark contrast.

The first part is a line of suits made entirely out of real blond human hair. The models are all positioned a little differently, and they kind of look like they are going to start moving on the spot at any given time. The whole human hair aspect is pretty amazing, because not one hair is the exact same colour, and the suits are all made up of lots and lots of slightly different shades of light blond hair. The models all have bunny ears too, and the set is called “Mating Season”, so I will leave it up to your imagination to picture the ideas behind the suits.

When you move towards the back of the gallery there are three other sets of figures. The first one is comprised of 5 or 6 figures of different shapes and sizes, all made out of thousands of white, silver and black buttons sewn onto fabric one at a time by hand. Each figure has a specific individual touch (a metal basket, red fur, wicker basket…). Although they are all separate, all of the models seem to form a unity together. The next two sets are both a set of models all linked together, with slightly different forms and positions, the first set being dark and metallic, the second being white. In the same way as the unit of individual suits, these sets are all made with thousands of buttons. I can’t believe they were all sewn on by hand, it must have taken hours and hours of work! All these buttons give the suits a metallic sheen as well as a strange fluidity, a little like liquid metal. It’s REALLY cool. I mean REALLY COOL. You actually can imagine the suits in movement… I want to wear one, hide in one, and use dance as a form of expression. Hide my face and body and express my feelings in a different way.

I don’t usually go and check out any of the art galleries in Chelsea very often, but I really should start. I really enjoyed this exhibition and I’m sure there are a bunch of other artistic gems out there that I have yet to discover for myself!

The Nick Cave exhibition finishes on October 8th.

Nick Cave site

Nick Cave Facebook