Richard Mosse

In July 2011, civil war erupted in Syria between President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime and opposition forces led by military defectors. Now in its eighth year, the conflict has led to the displacement of more than twelve million people, half of Syria’s pre-war population. Alongside refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of these stateless individuals have fled to neighboring countries, including Turkey and Lebanon, or across open waters, seeking asylum in nations that border the Mediterranean Sea.

Richard Mosse’s ongoing photographic project, The Castle, studies the physical and social landscapes that contain the refugee crisis. In 2014, the artist acquired a military-grade camera that detects thermal radiation and was originally designed for battlefield surveillance, border enforcement, and tracking insurgents. Horrified by the incompetent, and often outright cruel, responses of countries receiving migrants, Mosse set out to turn the camera against its intended use, employing it instead as a tool to communicate the harsh reality of the migrant experience. Detecting a range of wavelengths on the infrared spectrum, Mosse’s camera assigns tones to bodies and objects based on their relative temperatures. Cold surfaces appear as white in the resulting photographs, whereas warm and hot surfaces translate to greys, silvers, and blacks. This tonal range produces images that are, by the artist’s own account, accidentally beautiful.

Stitched together from thousands of individual frames, The Castle describes vast and complicated scenes in incredible detail. Many stories play out across a single photograph, framed within a panoramic format that serves as an apt metaphor for how the world has addressed the migrant crisis—with concern, yet from a distance. By foregrounding the daily struggle for survival that refugees encounter, Mosse makes visible what we, as a global community, may witness, but have difficulty actually seeing.

What's pictured: Richard Mosse (b. 1980), Hellinikon Olympic Arena, 2016, digital c-print on metallic paper, 50 x 104-1/2 in., Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Exhibition-Related Events & Programs

Wednesday, October 17 @ 6:30 pm (cash bar & exhibition viewing @ 5:30 pm)

Wednesday, October 17; immediately following the public lecture

The Karen and Doug Riley Contemporary Artists Project Gallery

A 500-square-foot space in the Scott Pavilion suite of galleries, the Riley CAP Gallery showcases nationally- and internationally-recognized artists, as well as emerging talent, selected by Joslyn curators. A rotating schedule of intimate, carefully focused exhibitions will examine how artists engage with the world and respond to the issues that challenge them creatively, bringing new perspectives on contemporary art to Nebraska.

Riley CAP Gallery artists will be invited to Joslyn for lectures and other public programs, giving audiences the opportunity to gain insight into creative processes and contribute to an expanded dialogue about new art. The first Joslyn gallery dedicated exclusively to living artists, the Riley CAP Gallery represents an important step in making contemporary art an even more integral component of the Museum’s exhibition programming.