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Artist Richard Mosse Uses Military-Grade Cameras to Capture Migration Crisis in 'Incoming'

"I am European. I am complicit. I wanted to foreground this perspective in a way, to try to see refugees and illegal immigrants as our governments see them. I wanted to enter into that logic in order1/05/2017 2:45 PM Eastern
Richard Mosse, Still frame from Incoming, 2015–2016. Three screen video installation. ©Richard Mosse. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and carlier|gebauer, Berlin.

London's Barbican Art Gallery has invited conceptual documentary photographer and Deutsche Börse Photography Prize winner Richard Mosse to create an immersive multi-channel video installation in the Curve. In collaboration with composer Ben Frost and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, Mosse has been working with a new, powerful telephoto military camera that can detect the human body from a distance of more than 30km and accurately identify an individual from 6.3km, day or night. He has used this technology to create an artwork about the migration crisis unfolding across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Narratives of the journeys made by refugees and illegal migrants are captured by this thermal camera which records the biological trace of human life. Projected across three 8 meter-wide screens, the video installation is accompanied by a visceral soundtrack blurring ambient field recordings with synthetic sound design to create an overwhelming, immersive experience. Richard Mosse: Incoming opens in the Curve on Wednesday February 15, 2017.

At a time when, according to the UN, the world is experiencing the largest migration of people since World War II, with more than a million people fleeing to Europe by sea in 2015 – escaping war, climate change, persecution and poverty – Richard Mosse’s film presents a portrait of migrants made with a camera that sees as a missile sees. The film bears witness to significant chapters in recent world events, mediated through an advanced weapons-grade camera technology that reads only heat, and is blind to skin color, capturing glowing bodies crossing dangerous waters, drowning at sea, or sleeping in makeshift camps, presenting a story of humans struggling against the elements for survival.

Said Richard Mosse, “I am European. I am complicit. I wanted to foreground this perspective in a way, to try to see refugees and illegal immigrants as our governments see them. I wanted to enter into that logic in order to create an image that reveals it. So I chose to represent these stories, really a journey or series of journeys, using an ambivalent and perhaps sinister new European weapons camera technology. The camera is intrusive of individual privacy, yet the imagery that this technology produces is so dehumanized – the person literally glows – that the medium anonymizes the subject in ways that are both insidious and humane. Working against the camera’s intended purpose, my collaborators and I listened carefully to the camera, to understand what it wanted to do — and then tried to reconcile that with these harsh, disparate, unpredictable and frequently tragic narratives of migration and displacement.”

Christie is providing leading visual technology for the exhibition, as part of a major five-year partnership with the Barbican Centre which will transform the public spaces of the Barbican. In order to realize Richard Mosse’s vision and provide the maximum image quality required for this exhibition, it was vital that the best projection technology available was used. Incoming is projected on to three separate screens each around 8 meters wide in the curved walls of the gallery. Because of the curved surface and scale, James Belso, UK Sales Manager for Christie, worked closely with Mosse to select a projector that could warp the image around the arc plus be exceptionally bright to maintain a really strong image. It was also necessary that the projection worked with the content which Richard had shot on military grade camera, so the projectors also required very high contrast and image quality. Christie is providing three projectors – Christie 3DLP projectors from the M-Series with HD resolution and built-in warping and blending from Christie Twist technology (HD10K-M). The projectors will use 0.67:1 short throw lenses with HD-SDI input cards – where even a detail as small as a human hair can be seen. More information about the projector spec is available here.

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