Photographs of this book don’t really do it justice; you have to pick up MACK’s latest publication to fully appreciate it. Richard Mosse’s Incoming, published alongside an exhibition of the same name, addresses the burning crisis of mass movement of refugees and migrants across Europe, the largest of its kind since WWII. The solid 576-page book is composed of film stills from the video installation in the Barbican, alongside texts by Mosse and the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben.
In the sweeping Curve gallery, the work is projected across three huge screens. Made in collaboration with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, it is accompanied by a blistering soundtrack by electronic composer Ben Frost. Hijacking new weapons-grade surveillance technology that can detect the human body from 30.3km, Mosse captures the struggle of refugees and migrants making their way across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
The heat from their body renders them in a eerie silver light, making them become almost otherworldly in their struggle to exist. Handprints they leave are a ghostly black, an anti-trace of their bodies. Water is rendered black too, taking on the appearance of an ominous fluid running from white hot faces. The hypnotic beauty of the sea’s waves as rendered by the camera is broken by dinghies full of women, children, men. The film is an overwhelming, chest tightening exploration of the struggle of millions of the displaced.
The book cleverly manages to echo the fluid, lustrous surface of the film by using metallic tritone printing throughout. Mosse’s subjects are not static images, but remain active on the page, constantly moving with the light, echoing the subject matter. By using military technology, the machine’s gaze is forced to humanise, being used for purposes that were never meant to be aesthetic. Indeed, in his essay, Mosse writes, “the camera carries a certain aesthetic violence, dehumanizing the subject, portraying people in zombie form as monstrous, stripping the individual from the body and portraying a human as mere biological trace.”
The book directly follows the sequences of the film. Footage of a live battle inside Syria sees US aircrafts bombing IS; scenes of refugees board rescue boats off the coast of Libya, gathering on Turkish Shores; clusters of people journeying through the unforgiving terrain of the Sahara Desert. Finally, the Jungle camp is burned, leaving searing patches of white.
The book makes us question how we see refugees, how the government sees them, how weapons companies see them. Elucidated by the excellent essay by Agamben, this hefty book weighs in on some of the most important issues of the day. It cannot, and should not, be ignored.
Incoming by Richard Mosse is published by MACK, February 2017 in English. OTA-bound paperback with metallic silkscreen cover image and black painted edges. 576 pages.