I was struck by the visual effect of a military thermal camera used in a video installation by an Irish artist Richard Mosse and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten. It anonimised and dehumanised the victims of Syrian crisis even further, stripping them of their individuality, presenting them as bodies and numbers in cold monochrome. Yet it also brought their aliveness out in an incomparable way. Sensitive to heat, this heavy-weight camera accentuates or invades the spirit of life and conflict more than any other technique could. Shots taken from great distances let us, the Western Audience, surveil the movements of people and events unfolding on the shores thousands of kilometers away from us.
Particularly captivating was a slow close-up of a black impoverished Muslim man praying. He rubs tears off his ghostly pupilless eyes set deep in his white-washed face in the middle of his prayer. He prostrates to Mecca, which is a sign of abandoning of ego, then stands up in calm dignity on the background of the military trucks. The slow record speed nature of the camera, the ominuous meditative rumble of electronic music composed by Ben Frost, and the overwhelming size of the triple-screen installation were put together to disrupt and enrich rather than aesthetically please our affluent society. Richard Mosse said in an interview that he “chose the title Incoming, not only because it evokes the idea of incoming -fire-prompting a defensive ‘little Britain’ mentality of fear, currently prevalent – but also because it predicates a particular subject/object relation. The refugee is incoming from a European perspective. I thought it was important to remind the viewer of the subjectivity within which the work has consciously been made, foregrounding this particular medium as western one, designed to enforce our borders and protect our nice affluent English (or German or Italian) way of life. This approach (…) attempts to engage and confront the ways in which we in the west, and our governments, represent and therefore regards the refugees. ”
It is interesting how many will enter this free-of-charge darkness of Incoming and leave the looping imagery of the distant tragedies behind. For how long will the contemplative narrative of the film run in our consciousness.