The Museum of Accidents: Returning Richard Mosse’s The Enclave
“Exposing the accident in order not to be exposed to it.” That idea, penned by Virilio in a 1986 essay titled “The Museum of Accidents,” perfectly describes Richard Mosse’s filmic and photographic output, but applies especially to his first major work, The Enclave (2013).
A kaleidoscopic multi-channel video and sound installation, The Enclave is a record of the tumultuous period Mosse spent documenting what is a modern-day Hobbesian war of each against all in the Congo: a medieval state of play that has involved dozens of rebel groups, nine nations, and a government whose corruption knows no depths. Baffled at the consistent lack of media coverage—even as the conflict has claimed six million lives to date since 1996—Mosse responded aesthetically: he made a purposefully layered visual record to underscore the stubbornly invisible nature of what remains to this day an underexposed tragedy.
Mosse shot with discontinued Kodak Aerochrome—1960s-era film, originally developed in cooperation with the US military to peek past camouflage, which registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, tipping the war zone’s naturalistic greens and browns into a fever dream of pink, red, fuchsia, and crimson. The Enclave succeeded in capturing the attention of specialist and lay Western viewers, first at the 2013 Venice Biennial, and then at dozens of major galleries and art museums throughout Europe and America. But how would Mosse’s ideal viewership—the ordinary people of Goma, a city of some 600,000 souls at the heart of the country’s protracted conflict—react to seeing Mosse’s intricate, sometimes puzzling, crimson-tinged view of their reality?
A partial answer, Mosse thought, might come from returning The Enclave to the place where it was shot, to the Congo.
and curator since 1994. He was awarded Kennedy Family Visiting Fellowship in 2018, a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Grant for short-form arts writing in 2009, named Art Critic in Residence at the Bronx Museum in 2011, and has lectured at Yale University, Pratt Institute, and Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie. He co-founded The Brooklyn Rail in 1999; between 2008 and 2016 he wrote art criticism for the Village Voice. Presently, Christian serves as the Chief Critic for Artland and writes regularly for The Art Newspaper. In 2018 he was named Curator-at-Large at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, where he recently organized Life During Wartime: Art In the Age of Coronavirus. He has curated numerous museum exhibitions around the world and is the author of several books. His most recent, Social Forms: A Short History of Political Art, was published by David Zwirner Books in 2018.