On Monday the 27th, Richard Mosse was interviewed at an NCAD lecture. The interview was centered on his recent work from the Venice Biennial ‘The Enclave’. The project was done in The Congo (DRC) with the use of aerochrome film (infrared film used in WWII).
Richard Mosse website – http://www.richardmosse.com/works/the-enclave/
During the interview Mosse said a few things which I wasn’t too happy with. A student asked ‘what came first, the medium (aerochrome film) or the issue (The Congo) ? He said the aerochrome came first.
I don’t usually have an issue with that but this time I did. I think, as an artist, actually, as a person, when dealing with or trying to represent The Congo or similar places and issues in an art piece I believe we have a certain responsibility to approach it with a certain level of sensitivity and responsibility to represent the issues that are present. Based on the interview and based on his answer I felt the care was not there for The Congo or for the Issues.
Another thing he said was; The use of aerochrome reveals the unseen.
In my opinion, I believe it does everything else but that. I think it depoliticizes and desensitizes the issues in The Congo. With the use of the film, the landscape is turned into a very vibrant pink and for me, becomes a distraction from everything else.
A report by the IRC said that over 5 million people had died from conflict or issues associated to conflict between 1998 and 2007. Although this is said to be a questionable death toll by some and the actual number is hard to calculate. These are the issues that should be addressed.
Another quote was; Political view in art becomes propaganda.
When i heard this, I was infuriated. To think, if an artist is to represent an opposition to an enormous death toll, rape, crime, corruption and so on is propaganda is just an outrageous statement. That is not propaganda, it is a view and a representation of what is actually happening, just like a photo journalist will photograph and publish what is there (or so we like to hope).
If Richard Mosse was stronger on the side of the Issues and not on the side of showcasing aerochrome, would it have been in the Venice Biennial? would he have given an interview at NCAD?
It comes back to the notion of valuable art or ‘useful art’ which is a live issue in the international field of socially engaged art practice. ‘Usedul art’ a term coined by artist Tanja Brugera.
Art that asks questions, that reveals whats going on, be it a personal representation or just as is. Art that can evoke emotion is so important to me, if it doesn’t hit a human chord then either I’ve failed somewhere or the viewer has already become desensitized.
I can appreciate art that sits on a pedestal but I value art that does a lot more and not as a monetary value.
I think all artist should be questioned and I believe they should question their own work even more.