Richard Mosse: Broken Spectre
Works (Tap to zoom)
January 12 – March 16, 2024
46 Lafayette Street, New York
Opening reception on January 12 from 6–8PM
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Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present Broken Spectre, an immersive video installation by Richard Mosse filmed in the Amazon Basin. Understanding the urgency of sharing Mosse’s seminal piece in the United States, this will be the first exhibition housed in the gallery’s new Tribeca location—situated in a multi-story 20,000 square-foot space in the Clock Tower Building at 46 Lafayette Street—which is slated to complete renovation in the fall of 2024. Opening for a limited preview on the occasion of exhibiting Mosse’s critical work for the first time in New York, this special presentation is an exciting glimpse into the gallery’s greatly anticipated restoration, and a fulfillment of Shainman’s commitment to activate the expansive site to platform the ambitious and prescient work of the artists they represent without delay.
Capturing the exponential destruction of the Amazon from 2018-2022, Broken Spectre bears witness to a catastrophe that is playing out before our very eyes. Over the last fifty years, mass deforestation, willfully carried out by millions of people, has wiped out more than one-fifth of the original forest. Presented on a 60-foot-wide LED screen, with a multi-channel sound field, this dreamlike film installation shifts dramatically in scale and media to create a visceral and emotional connection with the world’s largest rainforest, the world’s last great reservoir of biodiversity, being devastated on multiple fronts for corporate profit.
Mosse reveals widespread localized environmental crimes through the prism of invisible systems of extractive violence, employing three discrete film media, each at a specific scale and wavelength, to articulate simultaneous spheres of rupture, on levels microscopic, interpersonal, and colossal. To reveal systematic environmental damage, Mosse films from the air using a specially designed multispectral video camera emulating those carried in remote sensing satellites. The human scale was filmed using 35mm black-and-white infrared film, evoking the Western film’s fraught iconography. The non-human is unveiled using ultraviolet microscopy, showing the bristling biodiversity to be found in just a few square inches on the forest floor.
Filmed and edited in collaboration with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, then scored with field recordings from the Amazonian biosphere interspersed with a foreboding musical composition by Ben Frost, these scales of destruction flicker from diptych to quadriptych, and at times, span into a solitary panoramic view. The installation will be shown alongside a suite of still photographs shot at various sites in the Amazon before, throughout, and in the aftermath of Broken Spectre.
The film’s title is a macabre mutation of Goethe’s concept of ‘the Brocken spectre’: the bleary, magnified spectral shadow of an observer that is cast onto a cloud range if backlit by bright sunlight. As an observer of the grave consequences of the Anthropocene, Mosse visualizes the coexisting awe and terror enmeshed in sites of ecological devastation. Smoke-laden skies, encounters with Indigenous communities, extractive agribusiness technologies, acts of illegal deforestation, and rainforest-floor flora ripple together through remote sensing, analogue motion picture, and specialized close up lenses. Drawing parallels between the three modalities, Mosse unveils the exploitative distortion of cinematic, documentary and industrial images—capturing the intricate complexities of the Amazon’s birds eye view and square foot.
Broken Spectre offers a metaphysical dialogue with the surrounding architecture that mirrors Mosse’s enduring pursuit of what he describes as “aggravated media''—the appropriation of technology designed for economic, militaristic, or surveillance systems to facilitate complex expressive and conceptual frameworks for his work. Designed by McKim, Mead & White and erected around 1898, the building was the former home of the New York Life Insurance Company—a site of
American capital in an epoch of urban industrialization. With its marble-column flanked clerestory and Italian Renaissance Revival moldings, the building’s pristine preservation imposes with sharp contrast to the vibrant ultra-sensory footage and photography of the Amazon’s blistering and burning landscape. Ushering the American landmark into a contemporary context, the gallery aspires to activate the space to platform essential ecological and Indigenous restitution.
Broken Spectre is co-commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIA Art Fund, the Westridge Foundation, and by the Serpentine Galleries. Additional support provided by Collection SVPL and Jack Shainman Gallery.
The Gallery would like to extend a special thanks to NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission; Orly Daniell, President and Yoel Shargian, CEO, Civic Center Community Group Broadway LLC; Anne-Brigitte Sirois, ART STATE LLC; Bobby Karas, NYCOM Electric Corp; and Ashley Systems.