Saturday, 22 November 2014

Lonely Souls

This past weekend I went to Bremen, again with the international students. It was miserable, gray and the kind of cold that infiltrates your bones and refuses to leave for the next months. Even our arrival at the central station was marked by how unspectacular everything there was: simply another big building with groups of anti-establishment homeless young adults and other homeless skulking about, reeking of beer and piss. The city tour was immensely boring as the lady who showed us around did not seem to notice that she was talking to students and not a group of geriatrics. Luckily that evening some of us went out and met up with my friend Pina, with whom we ended up at a gay club, dancing to Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and other 90s hits.

As half the group is Catholic, we attended mass in the Bremer Cathedral, which must have been the first time in years that I sat through a sermon. More interesting that being preached to were the stained glass windows and the architecture of the cathedral. Afterwards, a Russian girl accompanied me to the Weserburg Museum of Modern Art, which divides its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions between 5 floors.

After exploring four floors and contemplating rooms filled with Rothko-ish colour paintings, children's drawings and cultural artifacts exhibited next to art works we opened the door to a black room in the fifth floor. Initially I thought it would be another strange video installation that I refused to suffer through, but Richard Mosse's The Enclave (2012) was miraculous.

Four large screens formed a rectangle in the middle of the dark room, with a screen hanging at a distance on two more sides (so 6 screens in total). We went into the rectangle and focused on the film shown on only one of them, the rest were blank, bathed in black. The film showed what looked like a refugee camp in between strangely pink hills, with African people moving out of the camera's way as it progressed through the makeshift village. As we followed the camera's path, the other screens went on and suddenly we were overwhelmed by this pink colour that did not seem to fit the suffering these people must have endured (and are still enduring).

Turns out the footage was filmed on 16mm infrared film, used during wartime to differentiate between plants and people as the chlorophyll in the plants shows up in red-pink tones. For this film alone it was worth going to Bremen.

Richard Mosse: The Impossible Image from Frieze on Vimeo.

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