NGV to world-premiere 20-metre widescreen panorama of the unfolding Amazon crisis

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NGV to world-premiere 20-metre widescreen panorama of the unfolding Amazon crisis

The NGV is set to host the world premiere of Richard Mosse’s world-premiere moving image work, 'Broken Spectre', a response to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Co-commissioned by the NGV, Irish artist Richard Mosse’s world-premiere moving image work, Broken Spectre, is a powerful response to the devastating and ongoing impact of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

Filmed in remote parts of the Brazilian Amazon, the immersive video installation Broken Spectre is the result of three years of careful documentation using a range of scientific imaging technologies. Seeking to overcome the inherent challenges of representing climate change and making visible one of the world’s most crucial yet often ignored environmental emergencies, Broken Spectre is Mosse’s most ambitious work to date and makes its world premiere in September 2022 at NGV International.

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Created in collaboration with Australian composer Ben Frost and American cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, Broken Spectre combines and expands upon Mosse’s contemporary art and documentary practices. The work is presented across an immersive 20-metre widescreen panorama, utilising different visually arresting strategies to depict the unfolding crisis.

Piercing vision by satellite cameras show the destruction’s scale and organisation, interspersed by images showing the vibrant matter of the interdependent rainforest biome. Environmental frontlines are depicted through the iconography of the Western film genre, transporting the viewer to burning tracts of tropical rainforest.

“The scale of the catastrophe unfolds in ways that are too vast to comprehend, too minute to perceive, and too normalised to see,” Mosse says.

“The work employs scalar shifts that move between different temporalities of seeing. Broken Spectre presents ecological narratives that shift wavelengths across environmental, anthropocentric and nonhuman violence, to articulate different fronts of destruction at play in the Amazon. Time itself is a crucial part of this catastrophe, as mass deforestation began in earnest in the early 1970s when the military regime built the Trans-Amazonian Highway (Rodovia Transamazônica), opening the primeval forest for development. Only a few generations later, this development has destroyed one fifth of the Amazon rainforest to make way for the cattle, soybean, and mining industries.

“Data gathered by satellites over the last three decades has revealed that within a few years we will reach the very tipping point at which we can no longer save the Amazon. Soon it will no longer be able to generate its own rain, triggering mass forest “dieback” with carbon release at devastating levels, impacting climate change, biodiversity and local communities. This is a world emergency that is entirely man-made.”

Mosse explains that the most confronting moment of the work for him is the scene where a young Indigenous woman from the Yanomami community exclaims: “You white people, see our reality. Open your minds. Don’t let us talk so gallantly and do nothing. White people! Tell your fathers and mothers. Explain to them.”

Mosse adds, “My film examines an intergenerational destruction; a legacy passed on from grandparents to grandchildren. We have only one generation left to save the Amazon rainforest.”

In previous work, Mosse has mapped the journeys of refugees and their camps across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and documented an ongoing cycle of conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Combining reportage and contemporary art photography, he creates images of striking and unsettling beauty that push the boundaries of his craft to try and convey the scale and tragedy of events that are complex and opaque, often working critically with military-grade imaging technology and using camera, film, and sound in unconventional ways.

Richard Mosse: Broken Spectre will be on display from 30 September 2022 to 23 April 2023 at NGV International. Free entry. Further information is available via the NGV website.