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In Pinkness and Plasticity: Truth/Deception in Belin and Mosse’s Photography

Date and time
Thursday, October 30, 2014

In Pinkness and Plasticity: Truth/Deception in Belin and Mosse’s Photography

DHC/ART Education has created a pedagogical tool, Mosse/Belin: Movements, with the goal of encouraging visitors to develop and elaborate on key concepts examined in the exhibitions Surface Tension by Valérie Belin and The Enclave by Richard Mosse. The concepts include truth/deception, the body, the medium, and celluloid film. This week, we present the first essay in the series which explores the idea of truth/deception.

Photography is, at its core, a hybrid medium. A science and an art form, it contains truth and deception at every corner. Valérie Belin and Richard Mosse are not necessarily interested in presenting the world objectively: their photographs are tampered with by their own touch, the viewers’ interpretation, and the subjects’ sense of self. By questioning the aesthetics of their photographs, this hybrid reality of truth and deception becomes fully charged.

The aesthetics that both Belin and Mosse play with are innately ambiguous – beautiful, but in an unsettling, artificial, excessive way. So much pink, so much plastic. Belin selects her subject matter based on its photogenic potential. She states that she is interested in discovering the truths of her objects.[1] And yet her Fruit Baskets have been sprayed with the non-ripening effects of artifice: the fruit is to be admired, not consumed, and appears to be plastic, though it is quite real. Meanwhile, her truly plastic Mannequins glow with an animated, life-like quality. What is the truth of the fruit? The mannequins?

Mosse’s aesthetic choices also challenge the ideas of truth and deception in photography, as he transforms the often hidden conflict in the Congo into a sea of pink. He questions why black and white photography would be considered closer to the truth than pink photography.[2] They are, after all, just colours. He further suggests that “naturalism is no greater claim to veracity than other strategies,” and that his decision to use Aerochrome infrared film is a creative decision that is no more or less truthful than another artist’s use of other digital tools [3].

In pinkness and plasticity, truth and deception are constantly intertwined.

Questions for consideration:

1. Do the artists’ aesthetic choices (ie Mosse’s use of Aerochrome infrared film, and Belin’s manner of making the real seem unreal and the unreal seem real) introduce the viewer into a realm of deceit? How can the truth be interpreted in their work?

2. Does photography ever capture a truth, or is the image necessarily a version of reality?

[1] Jerome de Noirmont, Art & Confrontation. Web. Sept 18, 2014.
[2] Joerg Colberg, Conscientious Extended: A Conversation with Richard Mosse, Sept 21, 2010. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.
[3] Ibid.

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