How to Write a Review of Richard Mosse’s “The Enclave”

by | Jul 15, 2015 | Photography, Reviews | 0 comments

I’ve been working on an essay about Richard Mosse’s The Enclave (2013) for the past few months, reading every review, interview and essay I can get my hands on. And, in a way I have never before experienced when researching a contemporary artwork, there is an unrelenting consistency in both the format that the texts about this work take, and in what they say. To the extent that I can’t help but think of them as a set of rules for “How to write a review of Richard Mosse’s The Enclave.” They are:

– Open with an account of your first experience viewing this work. Describe the multiple screens and narratives, the lack of dialogue, make only casual mention of the exquisitely composed soundtrack, but under no circumstances should you provide an account of the narrative arc of the film.

– Do tell your reader how seduced, entranced or otherwise incapacitated you were by this viewing experience, and the minutes or hours that were lost to it.

– Describe the appearance of the colour pink in as much detail as possible. Use at least three of the following descriptors: lurid, vivid, neon, surreal, psychedelic, bubble-gum, fantastical, sensuous, candy-coloured, feminine, seductive, alluring, stylized, theatrical, fantastical, troubling.

– Mention with some vagueness how difficult it is to understand or represent the conflict happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, citing the 5.4 million people that have died of war-related causes in the eastern Congo since 1998. Do not provide any further statistics on the political situation there, or try to summarize some of the main parties at play.

– Insert a one-sentence explanation of what Kodak Aerochrome film is.

– Narrate your general sense of discomfort with the work’s use of beauty to depict a situation of violence. A Sontag quote may or may not be useful here.

– Do not make mention of any historical precedents to this work, especially within photography. Generalized claims that war photography and photojournalism are typically black and white and do not aim to be immersive, emotional or theatrical are permitted, though entirely inaccurate.

– Under no circumstances should you discuss race (unless it is to make a facile comment about feeling uneasy about a white photographer making images in the Democratic Republic of Congo).

– Make an unconvincing conclusion about the work asking us to look closer at a difficult, invisible, or unrepresentable situation of violence.