Rural Magenta Ghettos and Urban Peach Cubes

Dear Visitor to The Enclave, by Richard Mosse, February 2015:

When you assert in passing that the infra-red landscapes of war-torn Angola are “beautiful,” I can only assume that: a.) you are intimidated by the intense subject matter and can only process the work aesthetically; b.) you do not take seriously the people photographed and choose only to reflect on the landscape surrounding them; or c.) the artist so effectively transformed the photospace into a surreal landscape with Dr. Sues hues of a fantasy vegetation to the point which you cannot recognize that it - and the people who live there - are related to your life, even this very moment in a white-turned-pink cube at the Portland Art Museum.

By contrast, I found the still images - faces of generations marked by battle - to be equally completely compelling, and they brought the conflict to a closer place in my heart. Not to mention the submersive experience within the video enclave that ends with birth. Yet around me in the gallery and about town people talk of how “beautiful” the show is, in almost a dirty, scandalized way. As if somewhere the consciousness of a deeper reaction looms beneath their surface pleasantries. And yes, there is a lot to experience beyond magenta treetops. Fathoms, in fact. But the fact that the apparent majority of viewers cannot - or chose not - to engage these chasms indicates to me a problem (not inherent, but present) in either work or gaze. To what extent do magical pink forests and desolate fuchsia landscapes serve to further otherize the people in a place that too often absorbs (white) mass(es of) pain, sorrow, and guilt, Joseph Conrad style? It breaks my Heart (of Darkness) to think that in all of the images of family, children, babies, entrenchment, the takeaway becomes the vibrance of electric hills. 

Then Raymond clutched me as the film reel crunched bones and flesh, and I was brought back again to mine - sinews, veins - as the sight where this work lives, phenomenologically, vis-a-vis my/is/our body.