The Irish artist Richard Mosse’s The Enclave (2013), a six-screen video, photography, and sound installation made over several years in and around Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, was featured in the Pavilion of Ireland at the Fifty-fifth Venice Biennale and at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Shot with infrared Kodak Aerochrome film, Mosse’s Enclave became a locus for debates about contemporary aesthetic strategies, especially within photography, and the ethics of deploying the shock of the sublime to elicit both empathy and questioning, exposing the viewer/participant to the tensions of attraction and aversion that oscillate within the sublime. I argue that Mosse’s visual/aural strategies, by running counter to those programmed within the image supply chain dominated by mass-produced culture, set in motion jarring ambiguities that an uneasy audience must struggle with or at least decode. Mosse engages the critical points at which given sign systems break down, become porous or malleable, and where glitches and short circuits upset our blasé habits and routines of consumption. His installations pose questions about how we read meaning in the texts and images that structure our experience and our understanding of cultural representation. Thus Mosse’s work highlights the limitations of photojournalism and photography by mixing the contingent and abstract, the symbolic and political, evoking the precariousness of life as experienced in the continuing cycles of war, armed conflicts, and systematic tactics of violence that mark our era.

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