Theatre of War by Richard Mosse

This is definitely not your ordinary war photography — and the double entendre of the title hints at the multiple layers of meaning embedded in this seemingly mundane video. Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Tigris river in the background, a group of heavily armed and armored soldiers lounge around an empty swimming pool filled with rubble at one of Saddam Hussein’s formerly luxurious hilltop palaces. They could be extras on a film set waiting for the action to begin.
The film’s credits read:
Theatre of War is a slow, virtually static video piece redolent of classical history painting. Audio was recorded at the official US military hand-over ceremony at the nearby city of Saniya. A mullah’s prayer for unity among Arabs is spoken, after which the pan-Arab national anthem, Mawtini (My Homeland) is played, emphasizing Arab national solidarity and a pan-Arab territory. Made in Iraq in March 2009. Cinematography and Editing by Trevor Tweeten. Digital Color and Post Production by Jerome Thelia.”
This video by Irish photographer Richard Mosse is showing now in Houston at FotoFest, as part of a large exhibition curated by Aaron Schuman of SeeSaw magazine. Mosse’s exhibition includes exquisite large format 8″ x 10″ color photographs of the remaining architecture of many of Saddam Hussein’s palaces that were destroyed and occupied by American forces, as well as other surreal images from that war and other areas of conflict and disaster around the world.
We recorded a great video interview with the artist while he was in Houston for the opening of this city-wide festival of photography. Check back in the near future to see and hear the interview as part of our ongoing series of Lens Culture’s Conversations with Photographers.

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