Aesthetics of Empathy

Technology is blamed for all manner of societal ills, but in itself, it is neutral. It’s what we do with this tool that matters. Richard Mosse (b. 1980) came to prominence with the series Infra (2010- 2014). Shot in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it was made using a now defunct Kodak Aerochrome film that shows chlorophyll as lurid pink. The effect was mesmeric – beautiful yet jarring and quite unlike any visualisation of conflict we had ever seen. Audiences were forced to meditate on their relationship to war photography as a whole, and to see the Congo anew.

This approach – adopting unusual methods to produce intense aesthetics that reconceptualise global issues, whilst critiquing the medium of photography – has become a modus operandi for Mosse. Heat Maps (2016-2018) used a military grade camera to produce portraits of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East travelling to Europe. Similar to Infra, the pictures were an unexpected contrast to the photojournalism we’re used to. Cityscapes are otherworldly; individuals silvery, like ghosts.

Mosse’s most recent series are about the ecological crisis. Ultra (2019-2020) looks at deforestation and species loss in the Amazon through a scientific photographic technique that employs ultraviolet fluorescence. Tristes Tropiques (2020-on- wards) further explores this issue, enlisting drones to produce multi-spectral images portraying the extent of depletion. Works from each of these projects, including a recent video installation titled Ondônia (2021), will be on display at Kunsthalle Bremen, as the first full Mosse retrospective to take place in Germany.

Kunsthalle Bremen | Until 31 July

Image Credits:
1. Richard Mosse, Tower of Song, 2012 from the series Infra. Digital C-Print, 183cm x 229 cm. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.
2. Richard Mosse, Dionaea muscipula with Mantodea, 2019 from the series Ultra. Courtesy of the artist, carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
3. Richard Mosse, Drosera toakaiensis, Ecuadorean cloud forest, 2019, from the series Ultra, Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and carlier | gebauer, Berlin/Madrid.