I encourage anyone who hasn’t been yet to catch the exhibition, The Enclave, by Richard Mosse before it finishes up in Limerick this Bank Holiday Monday, May 5. It is in two parts—the photographs in a building in Rutland Street (opposite and down a bit from the Hunt Museum) and the multiple screen film in Ormston House in Patrick Street. I gather they should be viewed in the order: photos and then, film.
Now, I want to preface this by saying that I’m no expert on this mod-ren art craic. Sometimes, I genuinely can’t make any sense of pieces in exhibitions. It’s very much like: “A plastic bag under a marble slab beside some fishing line connected to a 2 x 4 plank…What the f**k is this?!” It reminds me of a news item I saw recently where a cleaner at a gallery had binned part of an exhibit by mistake. Well, the piece did include “cookie pieces scattered across the floor”. Easy mistake! This kind of thing has happened at least twice before. I once saw a jacket hung on a radiator in a gallery and wondered was it art or storage. I would just like to point out at this juncture, that I’ve seen many pieces of art I did appreciate.
From my untrained point of view, The Enclave is appropriately named. It is wholly “different in character from those surrounding it”. It is the result of a three year exploration of the conflicted landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo by the artist.
War and peace, order and chaos, living and dying…all human life is here
Firstly, the look of the photos and footage is unlike anything I’ve seen before; it uses a discontinued military reconnaissance film originally designed for camouflage detection but which registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light. The effect is a psychedelic, ethereal colour-palette. Everything is displayed in shockingly vivid hues and the beauty of the landscape, in particular, jumps off the wall and screen.
The film literally surrounds you. You step into complete darkness and it encloses you with a combination of the multiple screens, a haunting musical score and ambient sound recordings. The words “it grabbed me” don’t do it justice. Unless you’re made of stone, it reaches into you and takes hold.
The phrase “emotional rollercoaster” is a bit hackneyed at this stage but The Enclave is fast and shocking and exhilarating and sickening and a hundred other things. The way it’s shot, with a steadicam, makes it seem as if you are walking through the landscape and villages and bearing witness to the beautiful and horrifying things too.
The stark contrast between all the things it is at once is both the best and worst thing about the exhibition: war and peace, order and chaos, living and dying…all human life is here.
I’m going to stop writing before I lapse completely into nonsense (or have I already? You decide). Just go and see The Enclave. It’s amazing. It reminded me why I still risk going to contemporary visual art exhibitions, lest I experience some kind of Falling Down style outburst. Picasso once said that art “washes away the dust of everyday life” (not literally, Italian cleaner). I really believe that. For all the dross and abstract that you find on show, there is no real way to sweep all traces of this particular exhibition away. It stays with you.
The Enclave was chosen as Ireland’s representative at the Venice Art Biennale 2013, the world’s foremost art event, so kudos to the team at Ormston House and City of Culture for bringing it here and executing it so well. The opening hours have been extended: Thursday 12-7pm; Friday 12-6pm; Saturday 12-6pm; Sunday 12-6pm and Monday 12-6pm. Admission is free. www.ormstonhouse.com