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Potentialities: Reflexivity and Transformation in Surface Tension and The Enclave

Date and time
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Potentialities: Reflexivity and Transformation in Surface Tension and The Enclave

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 third essay in this series which explores the idea of the medium.

Composition: Medium

Valérie Belin and Richard Mosse employ a myriad of formal strategies that draw on the senses in visceral ways while simultaneously challenging us to look deeper – within the subjects and at our own preconceptions of what is true, present, or real.

While distinct with regard to their approach to context and social commentary, both artists have pursued a critical relationship to their respective mediums. Richard Mosse set out to work reflexively with technology, stating “I...wanted to bring the Kodak to bear on the Kodak.  I wanted to examine the medium itself" [1]. For her part, Belin has suggested that “my work is something that takes place beyond the object, and it directly engages with the possibility of the medium" [2].

The sheer scale of works in the exhibitions compels visitors to navigate them in relation to the space in which they are exhibited. Where does one look first? Is there enough space to step back to get a full picture? Or is our understanding of what lies before us limited (among other things) by our proximity to it, by a point of view, which, for example, shrinks our sense of physical self, or limits our perception to one detail at a time? For Mosse, the disorienting immersiveness resulting from the scale and structure of the images in the Enclave both reflects the fragmented complexities of war and mirrors the shifting human eye as it attempts to process visual information [3]. Combined with tight framing and control of light, the enlargement of Belin's photographs creates what she describes as a confrontation with the viewer that emphasizes the works' subjectivity, changes the status of the object, and produces an illusion of volume, a perception of mass - and thus a distinctly sculptural quality as opposed to the flatness more typical of photography [4].

Both artists employ transformative techniques relating back to an energy that render visible - literally and metaphorically - something which lies beyond perception. For Mosse, the infrared film, in reacting to the light spectrum of the landscape that is undetectable to the naked eye, creates saturated pinks that reference the hidden devastation of armed conflict. For Belin, proximity to the subject and high contrasts have sought to capture the energy emanating from a given object or moment...what she describes in her later work as the 'potentialities' of a subject [5].

Mosse and Belin engage in a meta-reflection on film and photography. How does this engagement translate in Mosse's The Enclave and Belin's series? Name examples of reflexive work in other mediums.

Richard Mosse suggests that photography doesnt have a mainline to the emotions that film tends to have" [6]. Do you agree? How do Belin's series compare to The Enclave in light of this statement? With regard to affect, what is the interplay between the medium and the subject matter?

Emily Keenlyside
DHC/ART Education

[1] Colberg, J.  A Conversation with Richard Mosse.
[2] Valérie Belin (2007) Steidl, Gôttingen, Paris.
[3] Colberg, J.  A Conversation with Richard Mosse.
[4] Valérie Belin (2007) Steidl, Gôttingen, Paris.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Lange, C.  At the Edge of the Visible.  In Holten, J. Ed.  A Supplement to The Enclave.

Photo: Richard Mosse, The Enclave, 2012-2013. Exhibition view from Jack Shainman Gallery, presented Feb 22 - Mar 22, 2014.
Six screen film installation, color infrared film transferred to HD video. © Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

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