I lost count the number of times I felt this sensation whilst watching Richard Mosse’s masterpiece, The Enclave. Mosse’s exceptional use of POV shooting, unusual filming technique, brooding soundtrack and installation layout transport you to the distant lands of eastern Congo, from the basement of a multi-storey car park in Soho, London…
The unusual location for The Enclave matters little however, the same impact would have been achieved had it been shown in the traditional settings of an art gallery’s white walls. I guess it’s a nice surprise to find, what I believe to be, a contender for best art exhibition in London for 2014 in a place people generally don’t hang around. But you soon forget where you are as you turn a corner and are met with a large screen projection. The size envelopes you as you see nothing else but the film, enhancing the POV perspective even more so.
You’re whisked deep into Congolese life and shown both sides of the conflict – civilians and rebels. Innocent eyes and curious looks from row upon row of children stare back at you as the camera moves swiftly. These scenes are interspersed with posing officials armed with guns, reminding you how different your own childhood was – can you imagine what it would be like where guns are a familiar sight growing up?
There are six other screens in the room, three placed close to the walls and three in the centre, creating a triangle. Confusingly, the screens show different films. Some reveal different angles of the same scenario while others show entirely new themes. Standing in the triangle of screens, you continually spin around on the spot trying to keep up with three different narratives. Other stories reveal a talent show amongst the local community, rebels training and out in the field, a ceremonial burying, a large refugee camp of tents as far as the eye can see and a rebel lying motionless by the side of the road – this is everyday life.
The vivid pink hue is thanks to an extinct infra-red film. Once used by the military to detect camouflage personnel from the air, Mosse explains infra-red is undectectable to the human eye, the pink signifies making the tragedy visible – essentially it’s hard to escape or avoid the vibrant landscape. While the infra-red film may have been discontinued in 2009 by Kodak, this type of conflict is very much alive. Mosse explains the beautiful landscape shots will make people look a little more lightly on the issue, and it is that point where the audience becomes conflicted. For me, the pink makes the setting unreal, almost a made-up story. Perhaps this is me not wanting to believe this tragedy is happening in the world today.
The soundtrack changes throughout the 40 minutes including the real sounds in that moment in time, a low haunting hum and high pitched squeals. There are moments of complete silence which forces you to analyse the film, looking for clues as to what sounds could be heard.
The Enclave also features blown-up landscape shots of Congo which you actually view before the film. It’s almost too easy to forget these after experiencing the film version of these pictures until you exit the screen room. And it’s only after experiencing the film you realise the audience is shown these gorgeous landscapes to send emotions spinning to different ends of the spectrum, making the film all the more shocking. You wonder, just how can a location so beautiful be the stage for something so horrific?
If you’d like to learn more about Richard Mosse and his motives behind The Enclave, watch the interview below.
Like this post? Read more of my art reviews in London.
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